Assembled for Your Convenience: The Thunderdome Archive!
Once upon a time, two Thunderdome veterans who shared a fondness for records, a fascination with statistics, and a touch of OCD conceived the greatest project ever imagined: the Thunderdome Archive, where everyone's literary shame could be displayed forever. crabrock bought a domain and used his mastery of code to make all his visions come true. Kaishai assisted him by trawling the threads for prompts, stories, and relevant .gifs. Together they still fight the crime that is data loss.
The Archive's purpose is to store the over three million words of creative effluvium written for TD to date. If you want to make use of it to the fullest degree (which includes reading the stories), you'll need an account, which you can request through the link at the top left of the page.
Note that accounts are open to participants only. If you're desperate to read about Vorpal Drones and vambraces at sea without having to search the threads, you must first shed blood.
We have graphs!
We have lists and rankings!
We have mad libs!
(Please read "Rural Rentboys," Thunderdome's most beloved classic, to understand 2015teen and to reach true spiritual enlightenment.)
And much, much more! Visit the Thunderdome Archive today!
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 20:18 on May 7, 2015
|# ¿ Dec 31, 2014 21:47|
|# ¿ Oct 28, 2021 04:13|
Thunderbrawls of 2015
Thunderbrawl 122 by Bad Seafood: Ironic Twist vs. SurreptitiousMuffin Round 1 SurreptitiousMuffin Thunderbrawl 123 by Phobia: Your Sledgehammer vs. Jitzu_the_Monk Round 1 Jitzu_the_Monk Thunderbrawl 124 by crabrock: Entenzahn vs. sebmojo Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 125 by Entenzahn: sebmojo vs. Sitting Here Round 1 Sitting Here Thunderbrawl 126 by sebmojo: Djeser vs. Ironic Twist Round 1 Djeser Thunderbrawl 127 by newtestleper: Hammer Bro. vs. Benny the Snake Round 1 Hammer Bro. Thunderbrawl 128 by Mercedes: Fanky Malloons vs. Morning Bell vs. Martello vs. Tyrannosaurus vs. Screaming Idiot vs. Mr.48 Round 1 Fanky Malloons Thunderbrawl 129 by Fumblemouse: Tyrannosaurus vs. Ironic Twist Round 1 Tyrannosaurus Thunderbrawl 130 by Maugrim: CancerCakes vs. Benny the Snake Round 1 Benny the Snake Thunderbrawl 131 by newtestleper: sebmojo vs. Maugrim Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 132 by Ironic Twist: Tyrannosaurus vs. Benny the Snake Round 1 Tyrannosaurus Thunderbrawl 133 by newtestleper: sebmojo vs. CancerCakes Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 134 by Sitting Here: Mercedes vs. Tyrannosaurus Round 1 Mercedes Thunderbrawl 135 by Tyrannosaurus: blue squares vs. skwidmonster Round 1 blue squares Thunderbrawl 136 by Sitting Here: ravenkult vs. Jay O vs. Thyrork vs. docbeard vs. cargohills vs. JcDent vs. Posthumor vs. Overwined Round 1 Jay O Thunderbrawl 137 by docbeard: guts and bolts vs. Blue Wher Round 1 DOUBLE FORFEIT A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES Thunderbrawl 138 by Broenheim: Jonked vs. Ironic Twist Round 1 Jonked Thunderbrawl 139 by Djeser: Broenheim vs. spectres of autism Round 1 Both Thunderbrawl 140 by Kaishai: skwidmonster vs. Blue Wher Round 1 skwidmonster Thunderbrawl 141 by Mercedes: WeLandedOnTheMoon! vs. Djeser vs. N. Senada Round 1 WeLandedOnTheMoon! Thunderbrawl 142 by Bad Seafood: Bompacho vs. Broenheim Round 1 Broenheim Thunderbrawl 143 by Ironic Twist: Mercedes vs. Bad Seafood Round 1 Bad Seafood Thunderbrawl 144 by Obliterati: Broenheim vs. Screaming Idiot Round 1 Screaming Idiot Thunderbrawl 145 by Ironic Twist: newtestleper vs. Sitting Here vs. sebmojo Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 146 by docbeard: Fuschia tude vs. PoshAlligator Round 1 PoshAlligator Thunderbrawl 147 by sebmojo: Sitting Here vs. Ironic Twist Round 1 Sitting Here Round 2 Sitting Here Thunderbrawl 148 by Broenheim: Entenzahn vs. Jonked Round 1 Entenzahn Thunderbrawl 149 by Tyrannosaurus: curlingiron vs. Sitting Here Round 1 Sitting Here Thunderbrawl 150 by sebmojo: crabrock vs. Broenheim Round 1 crabrock Thunderbrawl 151 by Sitting Here: spectres of autism vs. A Classy Ghost Round 1 A Classy Ghost Thunderbrawl 152 by sebmojo: WeLandedOnTheMoon! vs. Grizzled Patriarch vs. curlingiron Round 1 Grizzled Patriarch Thunderbrawl 153 by Ironic Twist: God Over Djinn vs. Sitting Here Round 1 God Over Djinn Thunderbrawl 154 by Ironic Twist: Broenheim vs. Obliterati Round 1 Obliterati Thunderbrawl 155 by sebmojo: newtestleper vs. SurreptitiousMuffin Round 1 SurreptitiousMuffin Thunderbrawl 156 by Djeser: sebmojo vs. Fumblemouse Round 1 Fumblemouse Thunderbrawl 157 by sebmojo: SurreptitiousMuffin vs. StealthArcher Round 1 SurreptitiousMuffin (by default) Thunderbrawl 158 by Sitting Here: sebmojo vs. God Over Djinn vs. A Classy Ghost Round 1 sebmojo (by default) Thunderbrawl 159 by Broenheim: WeLandedOnTheMoon! vs. Entenzahn vs. Obliterati Round 1 Entenzahn Thunderbrawl 160 by Thranguy: SurreptitiousMuffin vs. Fumblemouse Round 1 SurreptitiousMuffin Thunderbrawl 161 by Broenheim: ZeBourgeoisie vs. Djeser Round 1 Djeser Thunderbrawl 162 by WeLandedOnTheMoon!: Entenzahn vs. jon joe vs. Broenheim Round 1 Entenzahn Thunderbrawl 163 by Kaishai: sebmojo vs. Benny Profane Round 1 sebmojo
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 02:12 on Jan 5, 2016
|# ¿ Dec 31, 2014 21:48|
Thunderdome Week CXXVI: Auld Lang Syne
Judges: Kaishai, Entenzahn, and Nubile Hillock.
The new year is almost upon us, Thunderdome. It's a time for beginnings and for resolutions, but also for reflections upon times and people long gone. What has become of those we used to know?
This week, your prompt is to write a story of acquaintances from long ago. As many as you please: a pair of former best friends would qualify, as would a group of former fellow soldiers. All of the acquaintances can appear on stage, or only one can while the rest remain in memory; perhaps some or all are dead; perhaps one turned into a hunky merman and left the other on land. Who knows. For whatever reason, these people have been estranged for years, but the bond they once shared must be important to the plot.
These acquaintances don't need to be from your own life. They're persons who knew each other once within the realm of the story. You can show them interacting or not as suits you; as long as their lapsed relationship influences the plot significantly, they don't have to meet again, but they certainly may.
No fanfiction, no nonfiction, no erotica, no poetry, and no GoogleDocs.
Sign-up deadline: Friday, January 2, 11:59pm USA Eastern
Submission deadline: Sunday, January 4, 11:59pm USA Eastern
Maximum word count: 1,300
LOU BEGAS MUSTACHE: "Penny Puncher"
Screaming Idiot: "Like Old Times"
kurona_bright: "Stump Talk"
Cacto: "The will"
Schneider Heim" "New Habits"
Bad Ideas Good: "Charolette"
Sitting Here: "Touch and Go and Touch Again"
docbeard: "Good Night, Miss Mason"
Ironic Twist: "Crush"
Benny the Snake: "The Christmas Truce"
Your Sledgehammer: "Two Bullets"
Nethilia: "Out of My Life"
Jonked: "The Pearl"
leekster: "Injury Reserve"
Fumblemouse: "Football and Fireworks"
Anomalous Blowout: "When You Need It Most"
Tyrannosaurus: "Teeth and Time"
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 05:10 on Jan 5, 2015
|# ¿ Dec 31, 2014 21:48|
You have lifetimes to roast each other over the fires of your disdain, but only two hours remain to get in on the first prompt of the year.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 10:17 on Jan 3, 2015
|# ¿ Jan 3, 2015 03:02|
Sign-ups for Week CXXVI are CLOSED. Go forth and write; failure is no way to start off a new year.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 05:24 on Jan 3, 2015
|# ¿ Jan 3, 2015 05:13|
Twenty of you have just under five hours left to bring old acquaintance to mind.
|# ¿ Jan 5, 2015 00:07|
Yeah, I'm going to have to shrivel out this week. If I have tomorrow I'll try to get it in. No excuses. Judgement for the Jitsu/Sledgehammer brawl's happening tomorrow though no matter what.
Okay, but Phobia:
Okay, I'm in.
I remember, too. You'll have a couple hours' leeway on the . No more.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 04:08 on Jan 5, 2015
|# ¿ Jan 5, 2015 04:04|
Submissions for Week CXXVI: Auld Lang Syne are now CLOSED!
Phobia, Grizzled Patriarch, chthonic bell, and ZeBourgeoisie couldn't remember the deadline, much less old acquaintances; maybe they're still locked in champagne stupors. Phobia has two hours to submit before his kicks in. Good luck, soldier.
To everyone else, thanks for showing up at the party! Expect results no earlier than Monday night, no later than Tuesday.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 05:32 on Jan 5, 2015
|# ¿ Jan 5, 2015 05:09|
Thunderdome Week CXXVI Results: Auld Lang Syne
The year could have had a more auspicious start. A lot of crap lurked at the bottom of the barrel, and the best of the bunch weren't flawless. Some entries were still pleasant to read, though, and I'm likewise pleased to give one of them the victory.
THE WINNER is Anomalous Blowout. Her work had that blend of good writing, good characterization, good response to the prompt, and good concept that can overcome a slight plot. We all liked Mister Hanrahan and his gifts. Here's a judge's gavel: you're going to need it!
An HONORABLE MENTION goes to Nethilia for an entry that may have had too many significant characters to flesh them all out within the bounds of the word count, but which was still an enjoyable family drama with a touching conclusion.
THE LOSER, surely surprising few who have read the story, is Bad Ideas Good. Not every week is Surreality Week, thank God. This was such a mechanically flawed mess of unexplained nonsense that one could almost lose sight of the tiny kernel of fun in its midriff--namely Charlotte plotting to steal from druids. I'd read a story that did something with that idea. I would prefer if someone else wrote it.
DISHONORABLE MENTIONS are thick on the ground, and the first goes to Cacto for blowing up all his characters and calling that an ending. leekster picks up the second for a boring story badly written. The third falls on Benny the Snake for writing about the Christmas Truce of 1914 but setting it in modern day for some reason whereof Reason knows nothing. Leaning on the Bible for a big chunk of his text and capping it all with a Guns 'n Roses lyric did him no favors either.
I still have crits to finish from Surreality Week, and I'll work on and post those first, but I daresay Entenzahn and Hillock will have sentiments to share in the meanwhile. Good luck, Anomalous Blowout! Happy 2015teen to Domers one and all!
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 06:41 on Jan 6, 2015
|# ¿ Jan 6, 2015 05:30|
Results are on the last page, Mr. Gayjeans.
|# ¿ Jan 6, 2015 06:38|
Critiques for Week CXXIII: The Surreal Life
I don't blame you guys for how little I liked this week. Well, not entirely. The prompt asked you to tackle a genre many of you probably hadn't tried before, and while the lack of experience showed all over the place, in almost every case there was a clear attempt to meet the challenge. These crits address how close I thought you came to the prompt, but landing to the left of surrealism didn't hurt anyone very much. Failing to tell a comprehensible story was another matter!
No matter how well you did, it's cool that you gave something an unusual a try. It's unfortunate that sometimes broadening your writing horizons means falling flat on your face.
December Octopodes, "Time Traveler's Bastard 1117 Words"
What happens: A man discovers that he's his own father through time-travel hijinks and erases his existence because ??
This entry ended up being representative of the general quality of the week. That's not a compliment. Except for Billy, your characters didn't behave like real people. Jane decided to cheat on her husband with Sam on the basis of twenty-nine total and banal words exchanged. Sam--in the middle of a migraine!--went along with it because...? Clearly he was as dumb as a bag of hair, but he didn't feel anything about his situation when he was confronted with a weirdo trying to pick him up, when there was another weirdo in his lap, or when he woke up in the past/present/future. What was supposed to have happened there, by the way? Did he travel backward in time to meet Billy, or did he wake up in the future? It read like the latter, but getting his mom pregnant with himself would have had to involve going back to the past. Making everything confusing isn't the key to surrealism; there should still be a story with meaning underneath all the weird. In this case, there wasn't.
Most of the story was bland dialogue. If you'd dropped some of the chitchat and focused on what Sam thought and felt, maybe you would have escaped the DM, since you had a vaguely comprehensible sequence of events even if they did amount to a dumb version of Back to the Future.
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ZeBourgeoisie, "The Steel Castle"
What happens: In this close cousin to systran's "Aliya's Hat," the protagonist is programmed by pills rather than by headgear, but a puppy still dies. He breaks through his programming long enough to waltz with a vat of goo because a dog told him to.
I'd guess you shoehorned your situation prompt in rather than letting it shape the story. The dog dream had so little to do with anything else. I don't see what the instructor intended to accomplish by killing the puppy, and unfortunately, that bit was strongly reminiscent of systran's better work; the judges who'd read that one picked up on the similarity right away. The dog's connection to the vat of gel was vague at best, much like the nature of the gel, what its purpose was, etc. Why did Lance have to be driven mad with pills in order to work with it? The end would perhaps have been more powerful if the goo hadn't been so generic.
The motif was one of a man escaping into love and madness from a world that wanted him to be a neurotypical/properly programmed/emotionless cog in a factory machine. Like his goo, he'd been changed by chemicals. As with his goo, there was almost nothing else to him. That premise was more ambitious and interesting than the mother-boinking-time-traveler escapade it followed, but too much of it came off as a scrambled mess of weird that didn't cohere.
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What happens: Two parents work together to get through the trial and ritual of their baby's first birthday.
The narrator and Jen were believable--if stereotypical--parents, with the narrator concerned about how much it cost to keep his son placated and Jen always indulgent. The idea conveyed by the story was the clearest yet: the parents gave their child gifts that reflected their dreams for him, but he grew out of them and into his own path. Not a new idea, but it had some heart. I liked the way it ended even though I kept picturing Tom Hanks in Big.
You overdid it with the weirdness, though. Some of the elements, like buying the baby wads of cash (with what?), the baby as an accountant (which doesn't match the ending), the open-pit-mine cake, and the 'rites according to custom' were superfluous weird for weird's sake; they were unsubtle reminders that things were SURREAL! Bleah. Still, you had enough human feeling to provide contrast, and the story was among the best of the early entries as a result.
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SurreptitiousMuffin, "the watchers from on high"
What happens: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YvAYIJSSZY
It would have been surreal if you hadn't had some of the clearest, smoothest writing of the lot. Your strange visuals were appropriate to the mood and theme. Centering your story on Gee Men may have been a mistake, though, because right from the start Trevor came off as a paranoid who could well have been hallucinating all of it. When somebody believes government agencies are reading his thoughts through his phone, I no longer assume anything he thinks he sees or hears is real. That hamstrung the effect. Worse, 'we are being watched' is a worn, tepid theme. You didn't do much new with it beyond the televised announcements that Trevor peed himself and couldn't get it up. As much as a relief as it was to read a well-written piece clean of pointless weird, this was on the dull side: competent, but not that much more.
Your use of your prompt was fantastic, though--I laughed when I checked it after reading the story, and maybe more specific personal taunts from the intrusive world, less about databanks and Gee Men and waterboards, could have livened up the premise with dark humor. In any event you gave us a story of strangeness that we could read and understand without wishing for sweet death, and that got you into the top five, easily.
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Roguelike, "The Court of Last Resort"
What happens: Cards both existent and nonexistent gamble with chess pieces, the winner determined by who has the best move (Alekhine's Gambit, etc.). Somehow the outcome of the gamble is tied to justice; 'hands'--or moves, or whatever they are--are verdicts. Or juries. Something like that. The Four of Clubs is a straight cop in what one supposes must be a dirty world, although its dirtiness is an informed attribute. He plays against four characters with more than a whiff of Alice in Wonderland about them in an attempt to win a case that will determine... something. Even though he wins, he loses. TL;DR: Damned if I know.
I'm tempted to let this crit be nothing but a series of ellipses.
There was just enough here to convince me you were trying to tell some sort of story. Nothing was quite purple-monkey-dishwasher levels of random. It was damned close, though, and if you didn't throw a whole deck's worth of ideas at the wall in hopes something would stick, you did a bang-up job of simulating it. Disjointed, dull, toeing the line of fanfic, and badly formatted just to add insult to injury, this was the rare confusing piece that I didn't care to try and untangle. Maybe there were deep references amidst all the jargon; maybe they flew right over my head. It didn't and doesn't matter. I wasn't even slightly intrigued.
Four's allergy to losing--or to bad luck; I couldn't tell which, but then they were one and the same in this context--didn't matter either. I'd be startled if you didn't shove it into a story you wanted (for some reason) to write anyway.
Maybe you took the phrase 'deliberately defy the rational' too much to heart and didn't figure we'd need to a breadcrumb trail of logic to follow. I sympathize, but for a story so chaotic to also be so boring was a mortal sin.
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Hammer Bro., "Going Home"
What happens: A nucleoside tries to get home in time to eat tacos with his wife and child, but caffeine interferes.
I can tell you exactly what I thought when I realized I was going to have to dig through Wikipedia to learn more about Adenosine, its chemical formula, its relation to caffeine, and what Sera and Endo might have represented: Again? If I've ever said anything to give the impression that requiring research in order to sort out your stories is a good thing, I apologize for that grave disservice. This answer to your mundane situation is cute and a little bit clever; it would have been more clever if it had been more clear. There was a dab of human feeling in Aden's desire to have tacos with his family. Your molecule or whatever he was came off as more human than some of the week's homo sapiens protagonists. I liked it at least a tad. The story told wasn't worth the extra work at all, however; not much happened, and Aden's opposition dissolved, so he won through by no particular virtue of his own. The Persephone story had interesting ideas underneath the hood. This one was comparatively bland.
Does looking clever matter more to you than telling a story? You make some of your entries difficult to appreciate, apparently on purpose. Maybe that's not your intent. Maybe you're aiming to teach while you tell, but you keep going beyond what an average reader should be expected to know and failing to put in enough context. You have wit and inventiveness on your side, though, so I'm glad you keep submitting even if I occasionally want to strangle you.
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blue squares, "A Ticket to the Fair"
What happens: A pretentious snob returns to his rural roots to report on the Illinois State Fair, and he sees stereotypes everywhere he looks. As he gulps down food, he transforms into a stereotype himself, but he realizes that the fat hicks around him are courteous, friendly, and happy. End result: he stops being ashamed of his Midwestern heritage.
The story nearly drowned in the inaccurate stereotypes, more's the pity. I see what you were going for, or I believe I do: you set the protagonist up as so scornful of the people around him that his epiphanies came as a welcome surprise, and the ending gave the story a warm glow. Some of the stereotypes you put in the story couldn't be chalked up only to the main character's perception, though. Having spent a lot of time with my family in rural Indiana, I'm fairly sure that sweet tea, cowboy hats, and cowboy boots are much more Southern than Midwestern. My kin confirmed when I asked them that rural Illinois isn't like that. I hope it goes without saying that random gay slurs aren't an everyday game among Midwest children. It could be that, like the food conveyor belt, the exaggeration was part of the surreality, but meh. You didn't go far beyond generalizations I've seen elsewhere. Like your tone and use of ten-cent vocabulary, it's heavy handed, but not enough so to ring with absurdity.
The first line stolen from David Foster Wallace was absurd in a bad way. Cite the source if you're going to copy that directly, even for a joke.
Those were the weaknesses I saw in the work, but it was one of my favorites nevertheless, because it incorporated the situation, used surreality in service of story, had an arc, and was not at any point a bunch of nonsense for the sake of nonsense. I enjoyed reading it more than I did most of the other things on the table. The ending redeemed to a significant degree the things that bugged me early on. It would have been too sweet if he'd gone back home to stay. You let him remain a New Yorker, and I like that as much as I do his recognition of value in a lifestyle he had held in contempt. This would have been stronger if you hadn't tried to ride piggyback on another author's style, but even as it stands it does you credit.
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theblunderbuss, "A Minute's Silence"
What happens: In an obvious monkey's-paw deal, a man agrees to a free trial of peace and quiet. It turns out that you can't relate to people you tune out, and Jones cancels his subscription.
A few stories this week were what I ended up calling Yet Another Cutesy Twilight Zone Episode. Here's the first. This story is so TZ it hurts. Other than the vast excess of scene breaks--you split fewer than 1,200 words into nine scenes! Nine!--there was nothing wrong with the writing. Despite the specific mention of magic that took this away from surrealism and into contemporary dark fantasy, I got into it after the first scene. I stayed interested through scenes two, three, and four... but then it dragged long. The ticker tape made no sense as it didn't follow logically from the salesman's promise of silence. (I know, I know: surreal. The absurdity was otherwise so low-key though that this stuck out as ill-fitting garnish.) Jones did jack to solve his problem beyond telling the salesman no, and the salesman didn't fight him, so the story didn't offer much struggle or accomplishment. It was an Aesop with the subtlety of a gallumphing wildebeest. On top of all of that, it was predictable; the sum of these parts was a yawn.
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Paladinus, "One Painful Visit to a Doctor and a Peculiar Journey within and without a Single Room"
What happens: A doctor and a patient who might just be the same person ramble at each other about pain. God confronts them because ?? and lectures them for a bit before disappearing. Everybody who hasn't read Roguelike's story wonders how this didn't lose.
I speculate that half-drugged philosophical exchanges are better suited to college lounges after midnight than to flash fiction. Much of this was dialogue between two insufferable characters/two sides of one insufferable character, and when God came in, He was insufferable too. Even if everything had been as clear as a crystal bell this would not have been fun to read. But it wasn't clear! I think, based on what God said, the debate over whose name was Joshua, the debate over who felt the pain, the Doctor's compulsion to punch the Patient, and a few other points, that the Doctor and the Patient were the same man; the Room may have been the inside of his head. That would explain how the two could have been one and yet also have seemed physically distinct. The clues pointing in that direction were the only thing I liked about the work, so I hope the reading is correct. If it is, I got what you were going for more than I understood what Roguelike was trying to say. Roguelike thus got my loss vote by a razor-thin margin.
This is a terrible story. I'm rooting for you, though, Paladinus. Sometimes there's something in your work, a good idea or a thoughtful interpretation of a prompt, that makes me want to like it. In this case, I dug the concept of two men fighting as it was slowly revealed they were the same man caught in a pattern of self-hate--assuming that was ever the idea. The tedious talking and lack of logic anywhere killed it dead, but at least you had something worth your effort. So keep writing. Keep trying to improve.
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Nethilia, "Take a Chance"
What happens: Leon's childhood friend, Monica, wins a wish with a scratch-off ticket and uses it to kill her abusive husband, leaving her free to be with the guy who has pined for her all these years. It's less exciting than it sounds.
Yet Another Cutesy Twilight Zone Episode. There were no surprises, and the conclusion was as saccharine as rock candy dipped in molasses. The aim in terms of genre was probably magical realism rather than surrealism, but the Make a Wish! tickets were straight-up magic, used for an end that was expected, dull, and trite. Everyone in this piece was a role more than a character: the Concerned Love-in-Waiting, the Sweet Woman Who Naively Married an Abuser, the Eeeevil Husband. Monica was incredibly open about Rudy beating her for a woman who'd hidden it until then. It read to me as too casual; her spirit didn't seem broken; she didn't seem angry; she didn't seem frightened. I'd wonder if she manipulated Leon for pity, except she couldn't have known she would win the scratch-off and be able to land him as a replacement husband. I suspect this was a serious misfire of whatever mood you were going for.
That she bounced right from her relationship with Rudy to kissing Leon was mildly distasteful to me, gesture of kindness or not, old friends or not. Take some time to sort yourself and your kids out first, woman! The ease with which she changed tracks fed into my impression of her as a woman who could have left her rear end in a top hat spouse at any time, and that made her using her wish to kill him not at all heartwarming.
Side note: Every woman doesn't react the same way to abuse, of course. If Monica were real I'd be slower to question her desperation, but she's a fictional character and unconvincing as such.
The second and third paragraphs were blocks of exposition, not all of it necessary--I didn't care about the details of Lenny's shift--and none of it graceful enough to avoid infodump status. Maybe you could have spread some of that information out over the course of the story and started with Monica walking in? The cliche situation didn't help. You can write, but this entry contended for the title of Most Boring, though its dullness was nearly a welcome reprieve from the week's more "interesting" offerings.
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crabrock, "Painted Lady"
What happens: A girl attracted to wet paint finds a replacement for her murdered lover: a can of Blue #123. (The same number as the week, huh? Cute, though it took me a long time to see it.)
You didn't go far enough. I could almost end the crit right there. The concept of a woman who loved paint had promise as a clever response to your flash rule, but as the other judges have said, the surreality didn't come through. I never thought for an instant that the paint was alive--Sandy was just a nut. Do you know, I didn't believe in her affection for the murdered red either: she painted over the corpse of her beloved without any qualms. Jeeze! Cold-hearted much? I wonder about other things too, such as her parents not finding that spray bottle (could be explained by them being such bad parents they didn't take her unhealthy obsession seriously, I guess--look at the way they left the painted room uncleaned and unlocked) and how Sandy expected a deadbolt to keep anybody out for long. Even if it did, wouldn't she have run out of paint and water before she died? Starvation takes a while. Maybe she'd choke on paint fumes or something. You could argue I shouldn't care about any of this in a genre that isn't intended to be rational, but because the surreality is so slight, my mind approaches it in the same way it would a non-genre story about a crazy person.
If you'd borrowed a page from ZeBourgeoisie and his goo and had the paint react to Sandy in some way, shown it living and moving, then the death of the red would have been darker and the romance with the blue more poignant. The places where human logic and reason were missing wouldn't have stood out, I suspect. You could work this idea into something that would be weird in a good way. In its current form, it's as flat as dry paint.
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Entenzahn, "A surreal story about zoo feeding"
What happens: A lion named Randy takes lessons from Fido-sensei in embracing his inner dog as a strategy against hostile gazelles.
Too wacky, though you lashed the wackiness to a plot. Thanks for that. Some parts of this read like a five-year-old came up with them, in the sense that they were imaginative but came out of nowhere: gazelles controlling humans with satellite modules, at war with lions because...? This stuff didn't say anything with its goofiness. On the other hand, there was some depth to Randy learning to be a dog, so while that too was pretty drat bizarre, I was interested in where it led. The story wasn't enough fun to get away without having any meaning, so it's a good thing there was at least a hint of one.
Randy's dog training seemed like a manipulative scheme by Fido to get hold of Randy's food, and Fido seemed like a dick. I wanted Randy to wise up. Good job subverting my expectations, but Fido was still a dubious example of the kind of dog he was training Randy to be. There was the puzzle too of how Randy's behavior convinced the gazelles he was a dog. Surreality, I guess. He still had giant claws and fangs; this resolution was kind of stupid.
Grizzled Patriarch and Bad Seafood agreed that this was a talking-animal story with some nonsensical elements instead of true surrealism. It was mild fun nevertheless, a cut above the week's bleak average.
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Gau, "Notes to Self"
What happens: Different aspect of a writer's mind argue with one another in what turns out to be a pep talk better suited to Fiction Advice.
In judgechat I said I didn't know why you submitted such a thing, and I still don't: I can't believe you were out to tell a story when there was so little story present. A rah-rah writing pep talk is so out of place in a Thunderdome round, though, that I can't believe that was your goal either. Nothing about it was surreal, so I'm not sure you meant to fulfill the prompt, and nobody made a mistake per se except for you... good grief, could that have been the idea? Was it a meta response to your mundane situation? Probably not. Maybe the answer is more simple: you were stumped for ideas or time and took a shot in the dark.
It flew wide, to put it mildly. I wouldn't have given it a DM on my own; unlike the true poo poo superstars, it was coherent. But at least one other judge was altogether annoyed by a combatant delivering a writing lecture, and that is a hard choice to defend. You preached, you preached specifically to people who'd heard all of it before, and you wrote about writing, doing none of those things well.
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Sitting Here, "The Undeliverables"
What happens: A doomed Mail Recovery center and one particular worker within it begin to receive dead letters in the form of tiny people. The worker saves them from the incinerator, but she can't deliver them, and they aren't content to tell their stories to her alone.
Yours was the story in the round that I most wanted to like. The idea was neat, and the little letter-people were engaging. Each letter was a tiny narrative within the narrative, a fragment of a life and a history. Reading them made me nostalgic for a time when letters were more common. I disagree that there was anything the least bit natural about the dead letters becoming people suddenly; that didn't rise from the Postal Service's decline at all; the line was heavy handed in a way that cutting 'So it seemed natural when' would fix. The concept and tone had a lot of charm otherwise, and by keeping your surreality to one point, you avoided the problem some people had with wackiness gone wild.
My vote for the win went to this piece, but I couldn't fight for it. The story at its heart was stronger than Tyrannosaurus's, though he had a better tone. It stumbled hard on the ending, however, and racked itself. The question of how that postal worker could help the letters got an unsatisfying answer. Would a museum want modern letters from ordinary people? Why? Storage seemed a more likely fate than an exhibit, and that would be no help at all. I didn't want those little people to end up stuffed in a box or a drawer or under glass. Nor did I get how telling their stories to strangers instead of the people they were meant for would satisfy their need. It felt like a story of how these tiny people went from one crappy situation to another.
No judge liked that conclusion, so it says a lot about the relative strength of this entry that we still had such a hard time choosing the victor.
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Fumblemouse, "Infamous Jack's"
What happens: A lounge singer wants to break into stardom. When her voice starts to fill an empty suit, she sees her chance, but her boss somehow ruins everything.
If Sitting Here's entry tripped at the end and racked itself, yours dove face-first into the pavement, shattered its nose, cracked its teeth, and was then trampled by a pack of stampeding llamas. As she did, you kept your surreality narrow and intense. The empty suit drinking alone at a table, slowly filled out and made into a loving man by Patricia/Patrica's (darn it, Fumblemouse) heartfelt song--what a great visual! The setting and characters didn't snag me, but I was ready to forgive that until it all collapsed as surely as the suit. I don't get what your last two paragraphs were trying to say about Jack or about Patricia's relationship to him. My best guess, looking back at how dramatically Patricia's singing was described and yet how tepid the audience's reaction was, is that Jack fed off of Patricia's music and drained its power for himself. He wouldn't let her escape; he took the magic from her song before she could finish it. Since he set up the situation in the first place, he must have been a sadist on top of that? I don't love this theory, but it's all I've got. I don't like the uncertainty one bit. You would have contended for the win with a clearer finale better supported by the text.
Side note: Along with misspelling your main character's name, you didn't capitalize a song title properly, put two single quotation marks where there should have been one, mentioned 'my last night her at Infamous Jack’s,' and had a good few other minor errors that, to be fair, most readers probably wouldn't notice.
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Jonked, "Be Kind, Rewind!"
What happens: Some guy rents the movie of his life from his local video store. For some ungodly reason, this "story" is told in reverse.
When Jeza did a version of this gimmick in "All Fall Down," it worked--mostly--because the order of scenes was backwards. Not the order of sentences. Every scene in his piece made sense, and the reversal of chronology allowed for realizations to dawn as new information was uncovered and much that had first seemed true turned out to be false.
It didn't hurt that he had a story worth telling in the first place. This one just features a guy viewing a shortened biopic of his own life. It's not interesting. It sure as hell isn't worth struggling through the gimmick. Reading a piece with this structure was a pain in the rear end that I undertook because I felt obliged. In places you cut corners to make it readable at all, and it showed: 'Beth handed me a beer. I handed her the tape.' 'My mother is lying in her death bed, weak and frail. Suddenly, she calls out, and I run upstairs.' Those sentences don't make sense in reverse because then you're saying 'her' and 'she' before specifying who 'her' and 'she' are.
I wonder what you were thinking: the trick added nothing to the story, and your mundane situation didn't call for it. An experimental style should give the reader something, whether a richer narrative or an interesting reading experience. It should justify its existence. Yours did the polar opposite.
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Benny the Snake, "Last Call"
What happens: A complete dick runs into a future version of himself and is transported to a parallel universe in which he's been even more of a dick, and he manages to become his most dickish self yet when he runs around slashing people up with a straight razor.
Oh, hurrah, gratuitous violence and unlikable characters and rebellion against authority figures who are in the right. A dash of dumb mechanical errors that suggest crappy proofreading, too! I can tell I'm reading a Benny the Snake story. If it doesn't embarrass you that you'd still write two people talking within the same paragraph after all the crits and one-on-one help you've received, it drat well should. You need to read and internalize some grammar guides. Elements of Style is an easy recommendation, but Eats, Shoots and Leaves and Lapsing into a Comma have a breezy humor and a sardonicism respectively that make them less dry. You could also try out the Purdue Online Writing Lab. Maybe self-study would help you in ways individuals haven't been able to do.
Your main character was an rear end in a top hat. He found out that he'd killed two people in a drunk-driving accident, and all that troubled him about it was that he'd hosed up. There was no remorse. His father was completely right to hide Drew's girlfriend's location from him--not the least because she didn't want to see him. And was it concern for Sam that drove Drew to put a
If you meant the reader to feel anything but disgust for Drew in either of his lifetimes, you misfired completely. If you intended him to be an irredeemable bastard, mission accomplished, but it was a bad choice. The premise was straight out of The Twilight Zone (though not cutesy, I'll give you that), neither fresh enough nor fascinating enough to carry a hateful-yet-boring protagonist.
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Your Sledgehammer, "Conversations with Bobby"
What happens: A man receives phone calls from his childhood self and is encouraged by them to put a dream in motion.
Yet Another Cutesy Twilight Zone Episode, and the motivation for and results of Bobby's calls would be weak even for TZ. All that came of something as weird and wonderful as phone calls from the past was that Robert quit his job and bought his boat a little faster. He was going to do both anyway! In fact, working until he had enough money to last him a while was a more sensible plan than chucking it all in as soon as he had enough for the boat! Lordy. It was kind of like if Robert had summoned all of Hannibal's elephants out of history so they could press flowers for him with their mighty feet. So little payoff for something miraculous was not the kind of surreality for which we hoped.
But even given that, you had one of the more pleasant stories to read, however schmaltzy. Maybe you would have picked up an HM if the change in Robert's life had been more extreme. Your characters were fun, and your prose was on the right side of competent. It just didn't quite seem like a story worth telling. You could fix that.
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J.A.B.C., "Processing Error"
What happens: Wacky aliens turn off Earth's gravity by mistake, changing the dull lives of the planet's dull inhabitants in no appreciable manner.
Two entries in a row full of scene breaks? Your indicators are of visibly different lengths, too. What's with that? Yes, I'm focusing on formatting oddities to avoid having to talk about your story. That's a bad sign, if you hadn't guessed.
This was so aggressively boring. It opened with someone waking up to 'another dreadfully boring day,' and it trudged on through scenes of boredom. The nameless (why?) protagonist didn't get excited even when he started floating through the air. The guy was a yawn personified. I swear he wanted a life of ennui and that was why he so quickly returned to his car. Do I need to tell you that boring people being bored aren't fun to read about? And everybody in this whole drat world was so dull that within five years they'd settled back into their routines without any significant change. Come on!
Removing gravity wouldn't work like this, either. I'm not a physicist, but I'm pretty sure there would be no gentle floating, certainly no sitting on a wrecked car, nothing but people being drawn up into space to die. Earth wouldn't be able to hold its atmosphere, so anything that had to breathe would eventually suffocate. A lot sooner than in five years, I suspect. Now, this could have worked--surreality!--if you hadn't brought in the aliens who explicitly muddled with a law of physics; by acknowledging science at all (sort of) you got me questioning what I might not have if you'd left the phenomenon unexplained. Those aliens were dumb anyway. They were goofy without being funny and belonged in some wacky sci-fi story, if anywhere. The piece ended up ping-ponging between the dull and the stupid, and neither mood was improved by the presence of the other.
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Ironic Twist, "Retreat"
What happens: Jane is disturbed at too-early-in-the-morning by her rejuvenated neighbor, who thinks 4:30am is an appropriate time for a baby shower. There may or may not be time-travel hijinks. Jane shoves her neighbor out into a suburban world, then sits down at the typewriter that isn't in her stomach just before the one that apparently is starts trying to write its way out. TL:DR: Damned if I know, redux.
We were too easy on this. It was more enjoyable to read than Roguelike's but nearly as much of an incoherent mess. It was as melodramatic about the Agonies of Writing as Gau's, albeit less cutesy. It never crossed the line separating weird and wacky; that's nearly all I can say in its favor.
Was the idea that Jane could have had a child in 2004 but passed up the opportunity in favor of writing? Was she reliving that choice in a more literal way? Was she even awake? Finding out this was a prolonged dream sequence wouldn't surprise me one iota. Alice appeared (at 4am, I reiterate; Jane not remarking on that was one more pointer toward a dream) and disappeared again without becoming a character. There was no storyline to link the strange images, some of which were good in isolation. The whole might as well have been a description of a drug trip for all the sense it made or meaning it conveyed. Your sentence-level prose was good, but prose isn't everything by a long shot.
One more thing: Jane had terrible cramps before her period started and didn't think anything was wrong? That struck me as odd, less in a surreal way than in a does he know how that works? way.
All that said, the imagery was indeed good. With a stronger thread tying it together and less of a dream vibe, it might have been an intriguingly weird piece. Alice needed more connection to events. Events needed more connection to each other.
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What happens: Aliens.
Ancient Aliens is surreal only in that it's on the History Channel and not on Syfy where it belongs. This was the one story to miss the genre completely. It wasn't terrible, and the prose was decent if prone to overlong sentences--check out all those commas in the third paragraph! I wouldn't call it fascinating, though. There wasn't any plot, nor much energy. The replacement of the fossil alien with a fossil avian was a nice touch that gave it a bit of sparkle.
If I ignore the genre misfire this is pretty okay, but too little happens in it to merit a comparison to a Twilight Zone episode, cutesy or otherwise.
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Tyrannosaurus, "A Series of Serious Beats"
What happens: A man shoots a sea monkey and then reviews it on Amazon.
Everything I liked about this story was tied to how you told it. The tone was spot on. There was a hint of artistic condescension in the vocabulary choices that was undermined by the absurdity of what exactly those words were saying. The situation was strange nigh unto insanity, but the protagonist's emotions made it somewhat meaningful, and little if any of the weirdness came off as superfluous.
The story part was thin. Strange things happened, and nothing was learned. The conclusion--the Amazon review--was funny and clever, yet it rendered the events even more hollow than the idiocy of the protagonist already had. That guy's willful blindness read as moronic rather than tragic. If the signs of his wife's infidelity had been slightly less impossible to misread by anyone with the mental capacity to wipe his posterior (the thousands of moans of "Oh, Gregoire" were perhaps where that line was crossed), the situation might have had more pathos and the concluding joke would have been less fluffy.
My vote went to Sitting Here, but I remained ambivalent about whether her engaging-but-crippled story or your weightless-but-skillful style was more worthy up to the end. You mastered the genre requirement as no one else did; I can't complain about the result.
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Boozahol, "Career Change"
What happens: Lazy Valkyries invite a mortal woman to Valhalla, and her friend follows them there.
Time and rereading haven't improved this sequence of careless, nonsensical events a jot. How did Claire and LaShawndra end up in a random metaphysical diner? I don't know, and the limited evidence suggests that neither do you. Why were gods worried about money? I don't know, and the limited evidence suggests... etc. Why, if they were so worried about the budget, would they hire an unremarkable mortal as a new Valkyrie? I don't know, and you get the gist by now. Random, dumb, dull, pointless, and rife with mechanical errors this was, but surreal it was not, and the amazing thing is that it was still better than the losing stories. I won't blame the prompt for all your problems, but it definitely wasn't kind to you.
Throughout, LaShawndra observed events, but she did little and felt less. The characters and their situation were so poorly developed that I gave no flips about any of it at any point. You depended a little too much on external knowledge of Norse mythology, I think--I'm not sure the man sneaking away from the restrooms was Loki, but that's the only guess I have that makes sense of his actions or existence.
Learn to punctuate dialogue correctly. You capitalized words you shouldn't have, and you used periods where you should have used commas and vice versa. The errors were frequent enough to leave a bad impression.
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systran, "The Amalgolem"
What happens: Wealthy men and women donate parts of their body to the formation of an amalgolem, a creature of impossible beauty with an inclination toward prostitution. They experience the sensations of another life through the organs they've contributed.
The shock value in this one almost worked the way shock value should. It wasn't completely cheap. The striking opener led to dark, weird places so strange that I had no idea what I thought of the story, whether I liked it or hated it or considered it good surrealism. I suspect you came a lot closer to the prompt target than most. The ending tipped it too far toward juvenile, though; after that conclusion, the sense of deeper meaning in the rest was watered down.
Lana McIntyre's section was strongest. I don't think it's coincidence that it was the one section that sidelined sex. As someone tried to tell Lana that her daughter was dead, she was enthralled by the emotional connection the amalgolem had to its lover. She saw the love in the amalgolem's life that she didn't realize or didn't care she had neglected in her own. She viewed it all through an opium, reality-blocking haze. There was a lot to unpack there, and if the next section hadn't stopped dead on the concept of a man being buggered with his own dick....
The final section wasn't just a vulgar idea--it carried its own theme of self-obsession--but it was short and abrupt and hilariously unsatisfying given givens. I hope Weiss enjoyed his ending more than the judges did. It read like you hit a wall, scrabbled for a way to finish the thing, and decided a literary whoopie cushion would do. If the ball hadn't tumbled out of your hands there, you would probably have had my vote to HM at least, since all your weirdness had a point buried somewhere in its heart.
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Bad Ideas Good, "Family Troubles"
What happens: A man estranged from his family returns to his odd homestead to receive an unwanted inheritance. Opening the object changes the story's viewpoint and setting to the life of Bad Ideas Good as he buys fast food.
The first paragraph beguiled me briefly into thinking that here might be another possibility for the win, as the oddly-built house above an ever-boiling sea was such a beautifully strange premise. You could have taken it to wonderful places! In the second paragraph, my hope dwindled. As the third collapsed into a distasteful disaster of poor formatting and worse mechanics, I knew no honors would be given. When it turned into weird, meta Thunderdome nonfiction, I imagined, with a wistful smile, your head stuck on the end of a pike.
This is flatly terrible. You made no use of your great setting. Your mechanical flaws were so severe that I disliked reading the prose. Why the hell did you have multiple people speaking within the same paragraph--don't ever do that!--without any dialogue tags to tell us who was saying what? You didn't punctuate dialogue properly, you omitted commas, and your choice of the present tense was a bad one for an entry so otherwise difficult to read. All this is without getting into the problems with the story itself. The meta thing came off as dumb and self-indulgent; the box was a magical artifact. The characters were thin, insofar as they could be distinguished from one another. I didn't care about them. There was no plot or arc or change or anything to make this more than a pointless vignette ending in a dull thud. Did you really use your meta section to explain something about your story? I can't tell. The box wasn't a tiny thing nobody ever noticed. If something else was meant to be the source of a curse, I confess I missed it.
Good on you for sticking around and fighting on, but I have the feeling that surrealism is not your strong point.
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curlingiron, "And The Days Go By"
What happens: A woman is visited by another version of herself, who convinces her that she is not and will not be happy with the life she's living.
On its face, this story belongs on Lifetime: Television for Women. Maria is in an unsatisfying marriage on the verge of turning abusive, apparently. It's time for her to shuck her domestic existence and follow her dreams! That's not inherently a problem; this premise is a bit worn, but it can certainly work. You gave it a heavy-handed, cliche treatment--on the surface. More about that shortly. Further, the scene (because it is a scene; there's no plot) reads like a Meaningful Dream Sequence from a melodramatic movie. Somehow it doesn't feel like any of that stuff--the baby, the burning ring--actually happens to Maria.
There's another way to interpret this. Maybe Maria's doppelganger isn't her True Self fighting to break out of a prison of domestic complacency. Maybe this other self is Maria's self-destructive impulse, convincing her she isn't happy when she is, convincing her that her husband would beat her when he would never, because after ten years of marriage she sees greener grass outside the fence of her house; never mind that the bright color could be in her imagination only. It's easy to interpret the second Maria's motivations thus, because you never convince me her marriage is bad. The doppelganger says so, sure. Shows, not so much. This second interpretation may be intended, and if so, I like the attempt to present a story that looks so different from different angles, but... the ending with the Gentle Rain of Rebirth (gah) makes me think I was never meant to doubt Maria as a victim of her marriage. I'm afraid I don't like that reading much. Not only is it very familiar, but it depends on me taking way too much on faith.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 00:37 on Dec 30, 2015
|# ¿ Feb 1, 2015 02:16|
Hi, leekster! You asked me for tips on what to work on in terms of grammar, and I thought a line-by-line of your latest might be useful to you. My suggested changes and comments are in bold.
Drowning in It - 488 words
Okay, well... you had some mechanical problems, but those were very secondary to the amount of bloat in the piece and how unsatisfactory it was. Vignettes were okay this week, but Cynthia's escape was still anticlimactic. Wallace didn't do anything more threatening than look mean and grab her suitcase. I can certainly infer he's a bad guy, but I wish he'd shouted, tried to shove her off the landing, grabbed her arm, something. And how exactly did Cynthia kick him in the head? If her feet were at the height of his head, that fire escape was incredibly inconvenient, and he shouldn't have been able to grab the case. Physical action in a story needs to be reasonably clear and logical. The reader should be able to see it in her mind's eye.
I'm puzzled by the value of Cynthia's ring. I'm puzzled by several things, actually. 1.) How did she forget a ring that was on her finger? 2.) How is a silver ring--tarnished and scratched!--worth a ticket to anywhere? Is it some sort of sixteenth-century antique? If so, underline question 1. 3.) Why did rediscovering the ring drive her back into the house rather than out to the nearest pawn shop? 4.) Why did she put it on the table? 5.) Why not grab it and put it back on if she's worried Wallace will figure out her plan? 6.) How would seeing the ring on the table tell him anything? Seriously. This does not compute.
Though I haven't read everything from this week, I'm not surprised by your DM. This piece has some half-decent tension and atmosphere to it; goodness knows I've seen worse, but you need to do better. Blocking--description of physical action--is something you should work on for future entries. I remember having issues with your blocking in Week 126 as well, so it may be an ongoing problem. Ditto the behavior of your characters: they should act and reason like believable people, but Cynthia's actions here are so senseless they defy credulity.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 10:12 on Apr 4, 2015
|# ¿ Feb 17, 2015 09:16|
Nemete is called the Lord of the Scented Winds by the herdsmen who move their cattle from plain to plain; in the cities, he is the Perfumed God. Odors foul and fair, floral and fecal, fulsome and faint all fall within his sphere. The roses and myrrh abundant in his temples make them popular sites for funerals.
|# ¿ Feb 21, 2015 05:51|
Kaishai will hold a largely complete draft of this story in her cold robotic effectors by 2400 Saturday, 24 hours before closing:
This vow has been fulfilled: I've received a copy of sebmojo's story. Neither he nor Sitting Here shall fall today.
|# ¿ Feb 22, 2015 08:02|
Gods: Nemete and Ah
It is said that a parfumier in Sophir caught a thousand scents and more in the glass bottles that lined his shop, and yet he couldn't be satisfied. One by one, he brought every fragrance he could conjure to the people of the city; he thought always of what still remained to do. When he grew old, when his imagination ran dry, he despaired. He prayed to Ah to guide him to the next rung of his ladder.
Nemete, who loved this man dearly, heard his plea to another. The Perfumed God took the step that separated his heaven of roses and rotting loam from Ah's throne above the peak of the tallest mountain. A haze obscured the details of Ah's face, and though Nemete floated beside the throne, light as the scent of ice on the wind, it stayed just outside his reach.
"I want the parfumier to have his desire. But he asked it of you," Nemete said. "Will you give it to him?"
Ah said, "That is not my way."
"I offer a game. We'll guess at the outcome of a mortal life. If I win, you answer the prayer; if I lose, I'll bring a scent to these heights that they'll never otherwise know."
The god of the invisible rung considered this. "You must win seven times."
"Agreed," Nemete said. "There is a dog digging at a fire ant hill." He stepped from the heights to a stretch of dusty grass far south of Sophir; Ah followed. Unseen, they watched the animal thrust its nose into a hump of grey dirt, and they watched the ants boil up.
Nemete said, "I wager the dog survives."
Ah said, "I wager the ants kill it."
Hard though the dog shook its head, the fire ants clung and bit. It fled half a mile to a pool that was half mud, and it buried its face in the stagnant water. The two gods moved ahead in time. The dog was scarred and ugly, but it lived, three years later. Nemete said, "One for me."
The Perfumed God won their next three wagers: a man left his job, a falcon returned to its master's hand, and a midwife revived a child born dead. Again and again Nemete won, until he had all victories but the seventh.
The gods stood at the shoulders of a university student taking his last exam. "I wager he'll cheat," Ah said. The boy adjusted his sleeve, revealing the formula written on his wrist.
They returned to Ah's throne, and Nemete said, "This is the scent of the core of the world." He filled the air with metal and fire, unfathomably heavy, achingly pure. Ah stretched out a hand as though to touch the heat that it could not quite feel.
"There is a woman who hates her child," Ah said.
"I wager she will smother it," Nemete said, but she did not. Nemete gave Ah the perfume of a mammoth long past being in extremis.
"There is a miner digging for rubies," Ah said.
"I wager he won't find them," Nemete said, but he did. Nemete gave Ah the salt-sweet smell of caramel cooling on a stove, so thick that it sat on the god's tongue.
Every wager after, Nemete lost, and the heights above Sophir knew the aromas of roasted onions, of old leaves pressed into the earth by rain, of sharks' blood. The gods slipped backward and forward through time; neither Censiron nor Anathot knows how long they played. The seventh triumph eluded the Perfumed God's hands.
At the last, he said to Ah, "There is one scent left that could interest you."
Ah said, "I've smelled the birth of a star and the grease in a sailor's beard, twice-chewed cud and empty walnut shells. Love, joy, apathy, and rage; Inanis' tears on the day the universe is reborn. What remains?"
For a moment the haze around Ah thinned, and Nemete could almost see its eyes and an emotion in them. The god of the invisible rung gripped the armrests of its throne. "There is a parfumier in my city," it said. "I wager--"
"No." Nemete held up his hand. "I forfeit."
After a silence long even for gods, Ah nodded. The mists obscuring its mouth faded away; it wore a slight smile.
It is said that a parfumier in Sophir once prayed to Ah to no avail: he lived two years more without creating a new scent, miserable despite the good fortune that blessed him in all other ways. Yet in the final hour of his life, he distilled the chill perfume of the tallest mountain peak, breathed it in, and died contented.
|# ¿ Feb 23, 2015 06:56|
Most of us are sympathetic to these problems deep down in our black hearts, but one, this isn't the place to talk about them (that would be Fiction Advice), and two, do you really want to tell the judges your story blows instead of letting them decide that for themselves?
|# ¿ Feb 23, 2015 23:43|
also, anyone who I've promised a crit to in the past and haven't provided one, link me your story and i'll do it. here's a to do it by end of submissions.
I can't prove that you once pledged in IRC to crit the stories from Wise Fool Week that Fumblemouse did not, but I remember. I remember.
|# ¿ Feb 27, 2015 02:17|
In with "The Statue Got Me High."
|# ¿ Mar 3, 2015 22:07|
They Might Be Giants song: "The Statue Got Me High"
Read it in the archive.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 05:02 on Jan 5, 2016
|# ¿ Mar 9, 2015 03:27|
i'll probably do some judgeburps but not gonna lie could be a light week for crittin so speak up if you want me to look at yours first
|# ¿ Mar 11, 2015 05:41|
Critiques for Week CXXVI: Screaming Idiot, Cacto, Schneider Heim, Nethilia, Your Sledgehammer, Fumblemouse, Sitting Here, LOU BEGAS MUSTACHE, and Walamor
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? I wish.
Apologies: these crits are late. Exceedingly so. I'm grateful to both my co-judges for delivering more timely feedback.
I didn't think the week would be especially challenging, but the evidence suggests that most of you found it so. In retrospect, I understand why. The need for backstory coupled to a flash-fiction word count defeated many who didn't manage to deliver character history in an engaging way, or didn't flesh out the old acquaintance at all, or spent so much time on the characters' shared past that almost nothing happened in the present. Here's hoping the exercise was useful, whatever the result. At least you're all in
Screaming Idiot, "Like Old Times"
For a story that begins with a naked man bleeding from a bullet wound, this is dull, and that first line shows why. It tries too hard and too obviously to hook. It's cliche on top of that. Most of this piece is rife with cliches, and you were too heavy handed with the swearing, as though the measure of toughness were how many times a minute a guy could say gently caress. Everybody is too busy swearing to do anything interesting. All the physical action and a good bit of the emotional action in the piece happen in the past; a lot of what you put on the table is exposition, delivered in dialogue. Bad choices all around. It's more exciting to see something happen than to hear the after-action report.
Markie's betrayal by Andy is an afterthought rather than the main thrust, and Andy isn't a character so much as a prop; he isn't established much at all before he appears at the end to wrap everything up in a tidy package of gently caress you. Ortiz, Chuck, and even Duane get more characterization. If you cut Andy out altogether and had Duane hand Markie over to Eddy himself, would the story be significantly different? Nope. It's not about Markie and Andy. It's about Markie and Julie, if anything. So this reads as though you shoehorned the prompt in as hard as you could rather than writing a response to it, and the story suffered.
I liked your merman piece in the previous week a whole lot better--but on the plus side, your mechanics are good, your dialogue's decent when it isn't awkwardly delivering information intended for the reader more than for the characters, you've got some interesting visuals, and I didn't want to punch you when I finished it. Sometimes that's all a judge can ask.
Cacto, "The will"
You, now, I would like to punch straight to the moon for submitting a bunch of build-up to conflict that never happened because you blew everybody up in a methane explosion or something, I don't even know. I assume it was a gas leak, maybe set up by Harvey, though there was no goddamn reason for Harvey to kill the family. Maybe it was a horrible coincidence! Emphasis on horrible! Goddrat that ending was stupid. It made the whole story pointless, which admittedly wasn't a challenge when so much of it was bickering and random ogling of a gardener who wasn't a character in his own right. Then you've got the question of when exactly this was set since it had the tone of a period piece but the air conditioning of something modern. What the heck was with that?
Beth was a prop, not a character--you were the second person to use the acquaintance that way in two entries, which caused me some concern--and her personal relationship with Sam wasn't explored at all. Did they get along? Did she love him? He didn't seem to give a drat about her being dead. Their blood tie did drive the story, so you hit the letter of the prompt while missing the spirit wholesale. Hitting the letter was enough, but you may have missed an opportunity to make me care at all about any of these people by giving the dead woman no personality and her nephew no feeling.
All of that is pretty much moot when stacked against the conclusion. One of the other judges thought it was funny and forgave some of the dumbness on that account. It didn't tickle my funny bone even slightly, and I couldn't overlook the lack of point or sense or anything else.
Schneider Heim, "New Habits"
I'm not much of a superhero fan, and I grimaced when I hit the Guild of Heroes, Doc Merlin, Marvel Marlowe, and other names and titles that struck me as bad pulp. Fortunately for me if not you, I don't have to worry my lack of affection for this piece is due to that bias: my co-judges didn't like it either. One even had it as an early loss contender, but I wouldn't go that far. Even though the comic-style jargon does it no favors, the background is left entirely too vague, words and concepts are flung around to no purpose, and the science is ridiculous, there's a hint of a cool character in Robert. The moral dilemma he faces is interesting too.
Your backstory of a superhero war against some megavillain for the fate of the world is probably too complex for a story of this size. Who was the Demagogue and what did he want? Why was Robert a villain, and why did he change? What exactly were Solveig's powers? This stuff is either vague or, in the Demagogue's case, just flat not there. Namedropping such things and moving on doesn't work. Your setting feels as hollow as a blown egg. Subspace gateways, miniature black-hole cages, time-machine jammers... what's the point? You don't do anything with that stuff. The idea was probably to strengthen the comic-book atmosphere. I can't say the gizmos don't do that, but I can't say the comic feel improves the work, either. Mileage may vary.
Mileage shouldn't vary on whether "Such titles did little justice once you've seen his eyes" is a crime against literature. Past tense and present in the same sentence? You know better than that!
While Solveig is more of a character than Screaming Idiot's Andy or Cacto's Beth, that isn't saying much, and there isn't much to him beyond his overwhelming, flat, and somewhat cliche goodness. He's dull. Robert is rather better, but the most intriguing thing about him is glossed over: he can perform a miraculous act of healing, but he was a villain. I can't think of many evil healers in fiction, and I want to know more. However, I'm not convinced there's reasoning behind Robert's healing ability other than that the plot needed him to have it.
Nethilia, "Out of My Life"
I don't recall noticing the tense gaffes on my initial read, but they're glaring now. "She hasn’t been ‘Ginger Kennedy’ since she’d married"; "She wasn’t a teenager anymore." Yikes. There are a lot of small errors here, actually, more than I'd expect from you. "It feels like minutes for Ginger to breathe again" doesn't work as a sentence. "His steady rugged arms" needs a comma after "steady." In the first paragraph of the second section, Ginger looks up to look at her daughter; Joyce is in the backseat with fries scattered across the backseat. The repetitive phrasing appears unpolished. I'm pretty sure "when Gabriel’s grandma died" should be in past perfect since it follows "She'd been told." The phrase "who she hasn't seen" should be "whom she hasn't seen." There are two periods after the first sentence of the fourth section. You get the idea--another editing pass wouldn't hurt the work at all.
The strength of the story largely makes up for the questionable proofing. Ginger is drawn well. Sensory descriptions like the taste of bad beer and the shift in a mattress do a great job of building the scenes, and Ginger's tic of touching her tongue to where her tooth used to be is a really nice character detail. For a story about old, lost love; death; and mourning, this piece has little regret in it, and I find I like that. Ginger made her choices and doesn't doubt the results. It's refreshing. The end beat is just on the right side of overly sweet.
The significant weakness here is the lack of characterization for everyone other than Ginger. Who is Gabriel beyond an almost-too-good-to-be-true stepdad? Who was Noah beyond a careless teenager? I don't know why why Noah would have been a worse father than Ginger is a mother based on what you show of him; she and he were guilty of the same things. Who is Joyce beyond a little girl? There are seven significant characters in play: Ginger, Gabriel, Joyce, Noah, Shaun, Laura, Dad, and Minnie. That's a lot to keep track of in such a short piece, especially with only one of them having a distinct personality. If you revise this, Gabriel and Noah above all could use fleshing out, because Gabriel's too much of a saint and Noah too much of a shadow.
Your Sledgehammer, "Two Bullets"
First scene, Then: So terrible that I braced myself to hate the story. The second paragraph is especially at fault, containing as it does the tired phrase "as I closed my eyes for what I was sure would be the final time" and a random mention of Fourth of July that sucks at implying a gunshot. One moment Rich is smelling grass, and in the next his partner has soundlessly killed a man. It's muddled.
Second scene, still Then: Things pick up. I'm not 100% clear on who Sandra is, but the friendship of Larry and Rich is coming through. I don't have a problem with Larry giving Rich the casings, maybe because I see them as a souvenir of having survived a terrible moment. The casings can remind Rich how close he came to death, how he was saved, and what the price was; it works for me.
Third scene, Now: Those casings immediately pay off by allowing a tidy shift in scene. It's a bit too convenient that Rich and Ramirez are talking about breaking up a domestic disturbance before the radio squawks.
Fourth scene, Then: The drunken dialect's a miss. You use his speech tag to say he slurred anyway, so there was no need to gild that lily, especially since "kin" sounds more Southern than drunk. No idea where or when anyone says "tha."
I'm not keen on Larry hitting his wife. You haven't shown me anything in his personality at this point that makes sense of that, and you never will. Not all alcoholics beat their spouses.
Fifth scene, Now: Good stuff here, especially in the dynamic between Rich and Ramirez. I like the contrast of Ramirez and Larry. You've put two different people in the same position in Rich's life at different times, and the different ways Rich treats them build his character and show how the years have changed him.
You should have written "whomever he'd charmed lately," if only to keep at least one pedantic judge from twitching.
Sixth scene, Then: Why does Larry drink? Even if the reason's something cliche like to numb the pain of shooting people, I wish you'd mentioned it. This is otherwise an okay escalation.
Seventh scene, still Then: More cliches, and Entenzahn's right: this is Rich's repayment for his life? To dump all the booze once and then get out of Dodge? Have the years of being an alcoholic's friend taught him nothing? Never mind how crappy it is to walk out on a friend and not see him for fifteen years despite still living in the same town and everything.
I can imagine that being Larry's friend for so long had taken its toll on Rich and that he couldn't handle it anymore. I can imagine that their bond had long since been strained. I shouldn't have to imagine any of it. The only reason this isn't the weakest scene in the piece is that the first one blows chunks.
Eighth scene, Now: Ugh, we're back to unfortunate prose with "the bile that rushed up through the dawning horror that enveloped me." It's a naturally dramatic scene. Awkward purple prose will not make it more so. Why did Larry shoot Sandra? Himself, sure! But why her, and why is she afraid, and why is she blaming Rich? Hell, why was Sandra still with Larry if she'd started leaving him at least fifteen years before?
Sandra's death is a weak point. It's unnecessary. A neighbor could call the police to tell them he or she had heard a gun shot from Larry's house, and Ramirez and Rich could be in the area and check it out, and you'd have the horror and guilt of Rich discovering his dead friend without the additional murder that tips the situation away from tragic and toward overdone.
Overall: The Then and Now structure worked; the scene breaks within scene breaks didn't. The start and finish were bad in different ways. As an answer to the prompt, though, it's strong. You did a great job of showing the present in conflict with the past. It's a somewhat cliche cop story, but I cared enough about the characters to only mind a little.
Fumblemouse, "Football and Fireworks"
Yakkity yak, yakkity yak. Jeremy and Emily spent the entire story talking at each other about their respective pasts, and it was both awkward and kind of hard to believe on Jeremy's end. It appeared contrived that he would bring up his imaginary friend, whom he somehow didn't ever realize was imaginary, with so little lead-in. For a viewpoint character, Jeremy was on the opaque side; the story spent barely any time inside his head. That's a problem. I wanted to know how Jeremy felt about the increasingly weird situation he was in. Had he never suspected there was anything off about Emily? Did he take this kid who didn't talk like a kid when she was telling him about dreams and hearts completely in stride?
I figured out who Emily was as soon as Jeremy started talking about his old friend. (Sort of. At first I thought she was a ghost. At the very first, I thought she'd turn out to be Erin's ghost; I didn't realize Erin was going to be more or less irrelevant despite the bench.) But that was only halfway through the story, and Jeremy took a lot longer to catch on. He seemed almost willfully dense. If you'd let me into his head, maybe he wouldn't have, or maybe his thoughts would at least have kept me interested. The second half of this was pretty dull, since the twist wasn't a twist and it was still all dialogue.
Two more things stood out: Jeremy fetching and throwing the football read like padding, kind of like you'd realized just how much talking there was and wanted to balance it out with some action, but it was pointless action that didn't move the story forward. I didn't like Emily's speech about gates and wars and men at all. It was as out of place as a high-bounce ball in a bowl of Cheerios, a nugget of cutesy high fantasy in a story not otherwise belonging to that category. There was also something mildly off-putting about a girl who looked ten talking about the men she'd loved to an adult who didn't bat an eye.
I'm more critical of this piece now than I was at the time. It looks good when compared to a lot of the field. The flaws are more obvious when I consider it on its own, although it's still a nice idea, a creative approach to the prompt, and an okay read that ends on a pleasant note.
Sitting Here, "Touch and Go and Touch Again"
From what I could tell, Dasra and Nasatya were a pair of souls reincarnated again and again through time to rediscover one another. This was a lovely interpretation of the prompt. The mythic tone, though, didn't succeed. It felt heavy, too ornate, and full of effort, as though you'd tried hard and that was exactly the problem. I could see the work rather than being carried along by the phrases. This time it was you who reminded me of Catherynne Valente's In the Night Garden, in the sense that the entry read like you had attempted to capture that style but hadn't managed.
Something else that reminded me of Valente was the nested story structure. Which was something else I didn't care for, unfortunately. My interpretation: Paris and Helena were incarnations of Dasra and Nasatya, and Helena read to Paris from a journal she'd written about their previous lives in 1967. The characters' names in that lifetime, "Susie Sometimes" especially, were another flourish I found Too Much. Then Natasha and David were the incarnations, and the sequence by Baganga Tank was a shared vision inside a futuristic Dream Tank. It took me several readings to understand that, assuming it's right. On my first pass and my second I was bemused that Dasra and Nasatya had their "real" names in only one of the sub-stories you told. Maybe I should have twigged to the fact that it was all a dream when suddenly a whirlpool appeared and Nasatya dove in, but enough dreamy and unreal things had happened that I thought it was just one more. Realizing that a significant section of the story was a dream sequence didn't increase my affection for the whole.
What did it matter? There's a question. Why do I care about the dreams of these two? Why do I care about them, at all? The nesting that worked for Valente failed you, because you only had 1,300 words to work with and each section was too short to build an attachment to the characters within it. I didn't see much depth in them, nor was there any plot. The entire piece was a premise. I know from what you've since said in IRC that it was a message, too. But--I think perhaps you got caught up in saying something and forgot to tell a story. The message didn't land because I wasn't invested in the mythic relationship, because the characters changed their shapes and their lives again and again without ever giving me time to get to know them, and because nothing they did was interesting enough to make up for that.
So I didn't much like it, in the end, despite the moments of beauty when the prose didn't feel too strained: the garden metaphor was a pretty and effective one, though my favorite part was probably the view of the beloved as a map home. You reached for something and didn't connect; you'll have to keep trying in order to master the effect you desire.
LOU BEGAS MUSTACHE, "Penny Puncher"
Why did you screw up your dialogue punctuation? You're better than that.
In contrast to some of the other entries in the round, this one had plenty of physical action. It was handled reasonably well when you didn't let your prose get too choppy. Choppy prose could have worked in the fighting scenes: abrupt, short, sharp sentences suit descriptions of boxing. But you used so many sentence fragments that it all became awkward. "Three months since he started taking classes." That isn't a sentence, isn't in a fight scene, and doesn't use the right verb tense ("he" should be "he'd"). "Three punches into a fight against Andreas Rodriguez." Nope. "This was Alvin’s first fight big league." That isn't a fragment, but it's either out of order or missing some words. "The octagon felt different for once, dread loomed within it." Comma splices should die in a fire.
"[...] until now Alvin was his own agent." Wrong tense. It should be "Alvin had been his own agent." "Alvin got a pair of short"--do I have to say anything?
Still--stuff happened! The relationship between Alvin and Sayid could have been interesting! Could have been. That's a bigger issue than the sentence mechanics, because those two were the heart of the story, but Sayid disappeared after his encouraging words to Alvin. When he popped back up, any personality or character he had were gone. He was an obstacle that Alvin failed to overcome. The end. That conclusion baffled me. I thought as I read that the Win voice in Alvin's head might have come either from the real Sayid somehow--the older, injured boxer willing him to victory from afar--or from the Sayid of Alvin's imagination, which was probably more on target. I don't know why Alvin would hear the Win when fighting Sayid in either case. I keep thinking it would be a stronger story if the Win voice first went silent in that bout, but perhaps I'm missing the point.
Maybe the idea is that sometimes, no matter how you work, there will still be someone better than you. Or maybe I'm meant to see that Alvin became too reliant on the Win chant and psyched himself out when he didn't hear it. It made him feel invincible until Sayid brought him back to earth, an interesting reversal of Sayid's initial role as mentor. But whatever you were going for didn't completely gel. There's a story under the surface, but I can't quite make it out, and the surface material flops to the mat at the end.
Bleah. Soap-opera melodrama between gay secret agents that was 80% dialogue and 0% anything happening. I didn't care about the characters or their shouts of BETRAYAL! Why would I? They were props filling roles, not people. Worse, they were props expositing at each other. It was incredibly tedious to read these guys telling each other and me about their love and their pain and ughhhhhh. Maybe a scene like this would have been effective if it had taken place halfway through a novel and I'd been invested in the feelings being flung around, but it didn't, and I wasn't, and the longer I look at it now the more I agree with Entenzahn: you were lucky that the worst stories of the round were so very bad, else you'd be rocking a DM.
It does look like you tried to make the infodumps work. Ari and Duran never quite fell into "As you know, Bob" territory. You trusted the reader to connect the dots and fill in most of the backstory based on things two estranged lovers might reasonably say to each other, if they were secret agents moonlighting as drama queens. That part of your approach was good, but dear lord did the story ever need to be more than endless chatter. You came in far under the word limit! You could have leavened the dialogue loaf with thought or action!
I remember this as a problem with your Season/Element entry, too. Expository dialogues are not fascinating and should not constitute most of a story. Maybe you should try writing a story with no dialogue at all sometime, not necessarily for TD, but as a personal challenge.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 09:41 on May 10, 2015
|# ¿ Apr 4, 2015 07:53|
Critiques for Week CXXVI: Anomalous Blowout, docbeard, Ironic Twist, leekster, Jonked, kurona_bright, crabrock, Benny the Snake, Tyrannosaurus, and Bad Ideas Good
Anomalous Blowout, "When You Need It Most"
The more-or-less unanimous choice for the win. Huzzah! True, the story is thin on plot. Alice meets a strange and magical man and finds uses for his three gifts, that's it, and she doesn't show a lot of growth or change or agency. Mr. Hanrahan is more a device than a character. Here's why those things didn't matter terribly much: Mr. Hanrahan is an interesting device, the premise is good, the writing is good, and the whole thing is fun to read. Its flaws are mostly balanced by the things it does well. That might not have been enough to take the crown in a stronger week, but yours was the only entry to make every judge's top three in this one.
The opening sequence worked as a hook for me. Why was the narrator lying out in the wilderness with a broken tibia, and who was Mr. Hanrahan? Although you never answered either question in full, I didn't mind that Mr. Hanrahan was inexplicably magical. One could argue that he represented faith in miracles beyond understanding, and that by keeping faith (and the lizard whistle), Alice had something to turn to in extremis. Or maybe he was just a cool magic guy who saved Alice's life because there's nothing that says a cool magic guy can't be kind. I liked that he and Alice never had a falling out. I liked that the happy ending didn't feel forced.
I didn't altogether like it that Hanrahan only gave Alice the three gifts and that there was little other interaction shown between them. A few fewer words on the dog and its treats or Maggie and her inhaler might have left you with some to spend on a longer conversation between Alice and her marvelous neighbor. Faith is all well and good, but she was so accepting of the coincidences in his gifts that the situation lost some of its natural wonder. I didn't like how tenses were handled in the first section, either. I see what you were going for with "I’d say ‘soaked to the bone,’ but then I glance at the shattered splinters," but the wording is unpleasant to my inner ear. Maybe "Soaked to the bone, I think, but then I glance" etc. would work. As for "will anyone raise the alarm? And even if they did" etc., oof. Since she was asking whether anyone would raise the alarm, the conditional phrase should have been "even if they do."
Those issues didn't prevent the story from being the most enjoyable thing on the table. While it isn't the best thing you've written, it is a deserving victor.
docbeard, "Good Night, Miss Mason"
What I like in this one--the only thing I especially like, unfortunately--is the location. West Virginia is a fitting setting for tales of secretive government agencies. Otherwise, this is messy work. Henry died, but he's not dead because "they resuscitated me somehow." Never mind specifics! Just handwave how the not-FBI managed to cure death and move on. The not-FBI is murdering long-retired agents because...? They didn't protect their own water supply because...? That phone number hasn't changed in twenty years and neither has mobile phone coverage because...? The story asks me to go along with too many things it doesn't explain or sell.
It offers little enjoyment in return, worse luck. Once Henry and Amanda meet again, the exposition flies. The finale wants to be sad, but Amanda's death is too abrupt and, well, dumb for that. Henry lacks personality. You appear to have spent your words on Amanda's relationship to the Agency and to have not had enough left to draw Henry and Amanda's relationship in anything but the broadest strokes. The first section, despite some proofreading errors, is interesting, but the rest doesn't live up to it. Not one of your better efforts, sir.
Ironic Twist, "Crush"
I don't know why multiple entrants decided to reacquaint me with Surrealism Week, but it's a reunion I could have done without. Nor was I thrilled by what felt like a bait and switch regarding Izzie's relationship to her mother. A beloved daughter keeping her troubled mother's secrets intrigued me: what happened to the mother and why? Who knows. Izzie's thoughts during the random magical attack put the lie to the idea that anything much could have changed four years before. Her mother was always a hoarder, always an abuser, and nuts enough before Izzie left to brand her child with a hot iron because... kicks, I suppose.
There's probably more logic to the random magical attack and its resolution than I first thought, at least. If the floor monster only represents Estefania and her hoarding, boooooo. Her ghost has no obvious reason for attacking Izzie this way. Or the living woman had no obvious reason for casting this spell before her death; whichever. The way Izzie "defeats" it by typing a nasty sentence into her cell phone is inane. On the other hand, the floor monster--containing the iron as it does--may represent a different sort of hoard: the buried family secrets. Some of the items therein make a lot more sense for this interpretation than others: albums, yes; coffee cans, no. If the idea is that a garbage pile of secrets threatens to consume Izzie even after her mother's death and she drives it back by telling her family the truth, the whole episode has more meaning and earns considerably more interest. If. But the garbage construct begins to back off when Izzie hits a random key by accident, not when she does anything by design. It still "dies" far too easily. I'm not sure what you intended in writing this scene. I can't quite trust that it isn't the more shallow spooky stuff happens because ABUSE reading.
No matter what the idea was, this is a vignette. It's not particularly horrifying: the monster fades out without doing anything besides looming for a minute. It works better than your Surrealism piece and would possibly have been in the upper tier of that week, but it occupied the unmemorable middle of this one.
leekster, "Injury Reserve"
Your issue with physical blocking rears its ugly head here, as do mechanical errors aplenty and the passive voice. The story trails off more than it ends. What is Lou's scholarship? What does Marcus have to do with it? I would hazard Marcus set up a baseball scholarship in his teammate's name after the accident, only I don't know why Marcus would give Lou the silent treatment if he asked about such a thing. The idea underlying the story is decent; the execution turns it to a snooze.
What I think you were going for is a story of two men, one of whom accidentally crippled the other, who can't move past that moment or renew their friendship despite regret. It doesn't matter that neither is a bad man or that Marcus didn't hurt Lou on purpose. Sometimes old bonds are too shattered for mending. This is a poignant concept.
However, everything that happens is difficult for me to picture in my mind's eye. I can't get a solid grip on anyone's actions. The prose, worse luck, is pretty drat bad. Some of the mistakes made have nothing to do with grammar. Did you proofread it beyond running a spelling check? Check these out: "in hops it was with the cumin and other spices"; "he bit someone hard with the cart"; "Lou said andquickend his pace"; "now hanging by wires from his care"; "It took a minutes." Oy. This kind of thing looks like you weren't trying, which is never impressive.
You mangled the punctuation of dialogue. You often used the wrong form of a word or a phrase, such as in the case of "The thought to say he didn't need help": The thought to say doesn't work, but The thought of saying would. So terribly many of your sentences are awkward. "An oomph came from the man," "A breath came hot and quick," "Eventually his lame leg found its way back under him"--why are you phrasing things like this?? Try using the actor as your subject, not the action or the result. The man let out an oomph. Lou huffed out a hot, quick breath. Eventually he got his lame leg back into place. Most of the time the person doing the oomphing is more interesting than the oomph, right?
Going back to the question of blocking, I'm all sorts of bothered that the shopping cart collision does not seem to follow the laws of physics. Marcus hits Lou with his cart. Oops! Groceries go flying! That makes sense if Lou was carrying them... but Marcus puts them in his cart. How in the name of Hades did he hit a man so hard that foodstuffs took a flying leap out of his cart? Do they live in a cartoon? Then the clerk comes by, and somehow he knows Marcus maimed his teammate. How? Neither man said that. Lou said, "I thought once was enough" in reference to hitting him with a shopping cart; that doesn't logically lead to the conclusion that Marcus crippled Lou.
How did Marcus cripple Lou? A car wreck? Something else? Was Marcus drunk or what? The circumstances of the accident would tell me more about both men, and the story feels incomplete without them.
I didn't enjoy this at all, but it's the only entry in the bottom four I consider worth salvaging. The writing would need to be much better for it to fly, but there's a worthwhile idea in the relationship of these characters.
Jonked, "The Pearl"
Before the pearl shows up: An unfolding portrait of a man whose marriage has failed. The opening description of how Joe spends an ordinary day drops hints that something isn't right in his household. Unlike many Thunderdome attempts to build suspense by keeping important information behind a veil, this one works and works well. The story treats the symptoms of Joe's marital estrangement in a matter-of-fact way that shows they are ordinary parts of his life. Something out of the ordinary must have happened at some point, though, and I want to know what.
During the baca ex machina: Contrived ridiculousness. The Lover's jewelry tradition is either unbelievable (from a sane man) or creepy (from an obsessed stalker). As for buying her a magical pearl that actually turns out to have powers, halfway through a story that had until that point been completely mundane? Holy regrettably subverted expectations, Batman.
After the disaster: Sarah still cheated on Joe in this alternate time line. How is her showing up in his life again supposed to be a good ending? The story appears to be blaming Joe for trying to stay married despite his wife's infidelity, which is bizarre to me, but no matter who was at fault for their misery, these two do not belong together. The thought of them being stuck with each other forever thanks to a magic pearl is nightmare fodder. Also kinda dumb.
Everything after the jewelry arrived was a misfire. You "fixed" a grim situation brought about by human failing with a magical artifact out of nowhere. You tried to play off a reunion between a man and the woman who cheated on him, left him, and apparently came out the better for it as romantic. Neither choice went over well. The first half was rather good, which sharpened my disappointment with the rest even as it saved you from dropping below the middle of the field.
kurona_bright, "Stump Talk"
One paragraph in, I witnessed a comma error (there shouldn't have been one after "sky," as the sentence had only one subject and was therefore a compound predicate) and a tense error (the sentence beginning with "Why'd Chris invite her" should have been in past perfect, as the invitation happened before the story began: "Why had Chris invited her," etc.). That boded well! The comma goof popped up several more times, so watch out for that. Correct: "The cloudy sky overhead gave off a soft grey light, and it brought back a memory" -- the clause after the comma has its own subject, namely "it." Incorrect: "She looked back, and saw Chris and Gavin" -- "She" is the subject of both "looked" and "saw," and separating the subject and one of its verbs with a comma as you did is inappropriate.
You punctuated several dialogue tags incorrectly, too. Take heart: you weren't remotely alone in having that problem.
Sorry to start off with grammar pedantry, but the errors distracted me--never a good thing unless a story is magnificently horrid. Moving on. Was there a point to the Gavin character? He didn't bring anything to the table that Chris didn't have covered on his own. The words spent on his relationship with Chris felt wasted because none of it had anything to do with Jane or her bond with Andrew. The story would be more focused and lean if you cut him. You can't cut the Pratchett quote entirely, but if I were you I'd find something to use that was less completely random. How was that line tied to a brother and sister building a snowman together, or hanging out together, or anything at all? Honestly, it read like you quoting Pratchett because you really like him, never mind whether it made sense in Jane's world. I disliked that. It threw me out of a story that was otherwise okay, definitely better than the two then-most-recent stories of yours that I'd judged.
I appreciated the gentle character arc that was present. Jane still missed Andrew at the end, naturally, but she was remembering him with a (weak) smile instead of only pain. By building the igloo that she and Andrew had once planned, she would move on. The backstory was handled much, much more gracefully than in your Eleventh Hour or Season/Element entries; there was a tidy enough resolution. I love to see improvement, and I see it clearly here.
I like this story for reasons that have nothing much to do with the heavy-handed, unconvincing way the last paragraph tried to ram home the theme of human relationships as waveforms. That theme doesn't set my world on fire either. I've known too many friends that I'll never meet again to buy into inevitable reunions without some persuasion, but you only had Dr. Becky say that the lives that she'd seen as "a lines" were curves. No sale! Though--I wonder now whether she was speaking specifically of her life and Deadbeat Becky's. I read it as a general statement about humanity; a personal observation would be considerably less forced and cheesy.
Maybe not any more heartwarming, though. Dr. Becky sounded a lot better off without Deadbeat Becky, frankly. As described, the girls' friendship got young Dr. Becky to smoke and shoplift, cost her lunches and one of her Christmas gifts, and gave her nothing positive in return. Dr. Becky wasn't kind to sever their bond, but it's easy to argue that she was smart. The return of Deadbeat Becky to the doctor's life doesn't look like a good thing. Deadbeat Becky may end up better off, but what about Dr. Becky? How sure am I that Deadbeat Becky won't end up an albatross around her neck? Not very.
That can't be what you intended, and I think the problem is that Deadbeat Becky was only shown as a troublemaker and a taker in their relationship. None of their conversations as children made it onto the page. The word count had a lot to do with that, probably. Nothing made me feel or see the affection these two presumably had for each other back then. The plot was starved for some sense of a two-way friendship, of mutual liking.
That said? It was still a nice piece. The focused, driven, and somewhat ruthless Dr. Becky made a good protagonist. It was sweet that Deadbeat Becky still wore their friendship necklace. Deadbeat Becky didn't come off as a terrible person, either--she was concerned about her kid, and she'd gotten a raw deal when Dr. Becky went the E/N route and cut all contact, no question. The ultrasound scene was touching despite all my grousing above. I don't think it would take that much revising to make the story strong: the ideas are there. It almost works.
Benny the Snake, "The Christmas Truce"
I wondered for a while whether you thought we were unaware of the Christmas Truce of 1914 and would believe the concept of a Christmas truce was entirely your own. For the life of me, I still can't think why else you would make the decision to set this story in the modern day. War is never going to be fought the way it was in WW1 again, yet all you modernized were the speech patterns and which cartoons the soldiers had seen, and what would have been cloying and trite if you had set it in its proper time became mind-bogglingly idiotic. The real Christmas Truce was an inspiring, amazing thing. Your treatment of it was saccharine until events collapsed into violence for... hey, would you look at that: for no good reason. Why the hell would Tom react that way? Why would someone shoot? It's a lot more dumb than tragic. You crapped on one of the few moments on a World War battlefield that was something other than horrible. Why?
You also decided to crib the majority of your second section from the Bible! Benny, how can I put this to you? Your prose doesn't improve through contrast with Biblical text. Of course, you helped yourself a little bit by misquoting the text so as to make it more awkward; the line isn't "and to Earth peace." Lifting so much looked lazy besides. You aren't Charles Schultz.
As a side note, you shouldn't have capitalized "chaplain" any of the times you did so. The grammar was generally not so hot. Look at the ends of your first two paragraphs. Stare at them until you see how badly you botched basic punctuation. Duck down to the seventh paragraph to witness another missed period on top of badly punctuated dialogue. Maybe punch yourself in the kidneys after that, I dunno.
And to tie all of that up... a line from Guns N' Roses, presented as though it were profound. I don't argue with the people who hated this entry. I hated it too! However. You did have a story, even if the premise was not your own, even if many of the sentences weren't yours. Your effort wasn't as badly executed as leekster's nor quite as dumb as Cacto's, and it was basically coherent, so it managed to be the best of the worst. You can do better than that--yes, you can, because you have it in you to write a passable story, which this was not even remotely.
Tyrannosaurus, "Teeth and Time"
Have you ever read Patrick Rothfuss's The Wise Man's Fear? It features an immortal sex deity. She speaks in rhyme, and the meter is often straight out of Dr. Seuss. The unfortunate consequence of this is that she ends up sounding more like a six-year-old child than like an adult capable of reasoned consent. Kamohoali’i had the same problem here; you were going for inhuman with his confusion and simple speech, I figure, but for me at least you landed on childlike. That did not do good things for your ending.
Madi's choice to leave her life and her son for her erstwhile lover struck me as selfish and strange as well as kinda creepy. Selfish is obvious: what about John, who loved her so much? Strange: she gave up Kaleb awfully easily for a mother, much less a mother who'd stared at his picture for seven hours straight. Her choice was super abrupt. I think you hit the deadline and didn't have time to show the reasoning that would have made her decision more sympathetic. Maybe she would have come back to her family, but the story didn't say so. Maybe she sacrificed herself for her son's sake, but the line about her laughter implied she was happy; why did Kaleb need to be rescued in the first place if life in the sea was good? On a positive note, the characters and concept were interesting enough that I would read the story of how the younger Madi met Kamohoali’i and ended up with John, assuming Kamohoali’i would seem more adult with prolonged exposure.
In this story, though, the pacing was way off, John disappeared halfway through, Kaleb was only a name, you left too much off the page despite having hundreds of words remaining to use, and you made mechanical errors that shouldn't have survived a proofing pass given your usual competence. Either you ran out of time or you slacked off something wicked. I expect it was the former. No matter which, the work shows the damage.
Bad Ideas Good, "Charolette"
In this collection of words, a sentient cobra taunts his omelet-munching roommate about the return of a woman named Charlotte, then watches some TV. Charlotte arrives. She gives the roommate a box. He doesn't want it; she doesn't care; someone named Stephan is going to kill her. Cue a seven-year flashback to an occasion on which Charlotte and the roommate, after some inane banter, jump off a bus and plot to use the cobra (also known as Stephan) as a secret weapon in a raid on druids. Back in the present, the roommate shoves a box down Stephan's throat while 50 people watch because...? The box holds a ring. But the roommate just can't say two words, which may be I do or may be ersatz antidisestablishmentarianism, who knows.
This is your brain. This is your brain making bad choices. Any questions?
You could have lost even Surrealism Week with this: it has that little worthwhile story coupled to its random bullshit. Submitting it for a prompt that didn't provide an excuse for incoherence was Thunderdome suicide. The narrator is a nonentity, the cobra exists only to be weird, Charlotte is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma bound up in lovely formatting, and I have no idea what the hell. I'm mildly curious what Charlotte wanted to steal from druids and why she needed a cobra. I'm majorly curious why you misspelled your title. Otherwise, I don't know what any of it is about and I could not give less of a drat.
The prose is mechanically a mess and a half, and that doesn't help. You should start a new paragraph whenever a new person speaks. It's confusing and difficult to read when multiple characters talk within the same paragraph, especially when you maul dialogue punctuation. Check out this bit: "'Charlotte’s back in town,' he’s testing me." It doesn't work; "is" is not a verb that involves speaking in any way, so "he's testing me" doesn't function as a dialogue tag. Ditto "I’m not burning my omelet over this." In both cases you should have ended the dialogue with a period and treated what followed as a new sentence. This is wrong too: "'Are you going to see her?' He says as he squeezes the TV remote." "He says" is a dialogue tag. You shouldn't have capitalized it: with dialogue, it's okay to follow ?" with a lowercase letter. "Could this story be any more nonsensical?" asked Kaishai would be a valid construction as well as an excellent question. The sentence "'I don’t know,' I say knowingly" isn't technically incorrect, only terrible. The adverb clunks while the know/knowingly parallel wants so hard to be clever and fails so very badly.
Other errors: "noncommittal" is one word. You shift tenses in the sentence "I wouldn’t even need to kick, I just need to string his four-foot long neck" etc. ("I" should be "I'd" to stay in the conditional mood. If you want to read up on the tenses to use for hypothetical situations, this link is interesting.) Later on, "If I wasn’t used to this by now" has the same problem: "wasn't" should be "weren't." In the sentence containing "she says, and shoves a box" etc., you should either remove the comma or rewrite the clause to say "and she shoves a box" so it will be independent. You could use more paragraph breaks; I'd suggest one before "The bus is rolling down a curve," for example. Twice you show a scene break with four plus signs, but the third break is signaled with five. Consistency matters! There are more mistakes present than these, but you get the idea. You've got to stop with the multiple speakers in one paragraph thing above all. Some of your errors are minor enough that many readers wouldn't be distracted, but that problem screams that you don't know what you're doing.
What's Rocky's actual name? That's one more thing I'm curious about, I suppose. It bothers me when the protagonist doesn't get a name unless there's a good reason for that, and in this story, when even the cobra has a moniker, I'm not seeing one.
The content of the story, such as it is, is so broken I'd advise tossing it in a bin. Maybe you could turn the seven-years-ago adventures of Charlotte and not-Rocky into a decent story, especially if you made not-Rocky less of a bore. If you do make the attempt, then for goodness' sake remember what plot and logic and meaning are and consider incorporating at least some of those things.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 18:34 on Dec 9, 2015
|# ¿ Apr 4, 2015 07:54|
Expanded Crits for Week CVIII: Hammer Bro., Morning Bell, Pseudoscorpion, Chairchucker, Amused Frog, HopperUK, Nethilia, Mons Hubris, Entenzahn, Meeple, Sitting Here, Gau, and Dirtbag Diva
Long ago in a thread far, far away, I promised that someday I'd expand on my short crits for Dewey Decimal Week. I try to be an AI of my word, so here are the full crits in all their longwinded glory.
Hammer Bro., "Emotional Nudity"
Disqualifying you for nonfiction was the most merciful thing I could do. Originally, skimming the handwritten pages you expected me to judge and realizing they were an account of your desire to sexually gratify yourself, I did not feel merciful in the least. Then I grit my teeth and read it, and I realized that while your submission may have been inappropriate in every conceivable way (such as: nonfiction for a fiction contest, handwritten, not a story, not related at all to your Dewey Decimal class even if you hit the upbeat ending, and did I mention it was about you wanting to wank because seriously dude?), it didn't come off as pervy exhibitionism, which is more than I can say for the last such story TD had the displeasure of receiving. You were trying to say something emotionally sincere. Albeit in some of the most purple prose imaginable. Hint: when you catch yourself replacing "just" with "merely," reconsider.
I can't critique this as a story because it isn't one. If it had been, and if it had been typed and edited so it wasn't full of scratched-out words, your mechanics would have been good. Your grasp of punctuation and spelling (misspelling "repertoire" aside) was quite good considering that you obviously didn't polish this. So that's something. Your phrasings reinforced the feeling that this belonged in your LiveJournal with Mood: Sad but hopeful and Music: "My Immortal" - Evanescence written beneath the post. They read as melodramatic, pretentious, and faux-poetic; at a guess, you chose this tone to convey the gravitas of your realization. It didn't work. To be fair, pretty much nothing was going to get gravitas across when you started out with "is that nekkid people?"
Personal appearance and costume had nothing to do with this and I think you know it, so no need to linger on that point. Maybe if I squinted hard I could see some hint of it in your "mask of constant contentedness," but really, no. Of course there was no plot, because that wasn't the idea.
I hope you stick and submit fiction to the next prompt, Hammer Bro. (Later note: As indeed you did. Huzzah!) I'm not even mad at you. That would be like being angry at someone for publicly peeing his pants. Good luck with your girlfriend, and I mean that sincerely.
Morning Bell, "The Shawl"
From this point on, the entries are at least somewhat relevant to their classes. I'll start each crit by talking about prompt fulfillment.
Prompt: Good show. Your Dewey Decimal class was 677 Textiles, and textiles are woven through the fabric (sorry) of the story. I do wish the shawl in question had ended up mattering more. The title's a bit peculiar. Grigory's shawl ends up a table cloth, and the story is more about heart-flower. I don't know how he ever planned to weave petals into the shawl. I wish he'd done it! Then again, he gave up something he'd worked hard on and let it be used for a base purpose in exchange for something simple that he thought Izolda would love, and that told me a lot about his character and the sincerity of his feeling.
So you got the prompt, and I liked your main character. You had a plot and a reasonable resolution. There was a good bit wrong that kept this story from rising out of the middle of the pack, though, and some of it was tied to the fairy-tale style that I don't believe was executed with full success. You worked in a lot of fairy-tale standbys: the Macguffin beloved, the animal companion who helped the human who helped him, the quest for something rare and magical, the "monsters" who weren't very monstrous, the three trials, the rule governing the rare and magical thing's existence, the way that rule was almost immediately broken, and the unsympathetic parent. All familiar. In your favor, you put them together in an interesting way, mostly. But not all of these tropes served your story. Why did Grigory face a test of physical strength? Did it tell us anything about him we needed to know? It gave Bird a chance to help him, but that took a lot out of your ending; by that point Grigory had already been repaid for his kindness, so it looked more like Bird carried Grigory to his happy ending than like Grigory achieved it through his actions. Bird was a decent companion, but his character voice didn't fit the tone of the piece. He belonged in a more casual, contemporary style with his "Aw, come on!" and "Listen, kid." Your pacing felt off: Grigory had the heart-flower petals for only a second of the reader's time before he destroyed them (and how did one tear hit all of them?). In comparison, his scenes with the Forgotten Things and with Bird lasted forever. Maybe if you retooled the Forgotten Things sequence to condense the three trials down to one, or to have Grigory win the petals by some other means once he's given up the shawl, that would help. It could be worth a try.
I didn't like Izolda's lines at the end. "I was singing the saddest songs I knew because I didn't get to see you all day." One, that's so corny and syrupy I spontaneously developed cavities in my eyes from looking at it (my ophthamologist's bill will be in the mail); two, like the rest of her lines, it painted Izolda--to me--as an airhead who had never known real grief, who didn't know her own heart, who could be won over by the antics of a silly bird, who fluttered her lashes and smiled and that was all she needed to do. You gave her a bit of personality, but that personality was so vapid that at the end I wondered whether Grigory couldn't do better.
Let's talk about sentence-level issues now. Your mechanics need work! A couple of your phrases struck me as strange. "A yarn of wool"--you use this one twice, and it soooort of parses, but maybe "a skein of yarn" is more what you meant? "A yarn" isn't a unit of measurement. "Sapphire voice" is one of those pretty descriptive phrases that doesn't mean anything when you think about it. Don't assume readers won't notice. Especially when your prose is already heavily shaded with violet, which, granted, is appropriate for a fairy tale. "Prefect for weaving" is a typo, but a funny typo, and not the only sign of sketchy proofing either: Izolda spells Grigory/Grigori's name wrong at one point. You punctuate dialogue poorly, with three different errors showing up in the first section. Check out those links. The repetition of "Izolda was the most beautiful thing in all of Georgia" doesn't really work because you aren't saying anything new with it or adding new depth to the original meaning. The parenthetical asides are too obtrusive for my taste, and I would avoid them in fiction--that's at least partially stylistic preference, though.
In short--sort of--the story could stand a lot of work. I'm torn on whether there's enough originality here to make it worth the effort. When I pick it apart, I'd say no, that it brings nothing to the table that dozens of other fairy tales haven't brought already. Looking at it as a whole, I still like Grigory and the Forgotten Things and even Bird a little, and I think their story is worth telling despite not being all that new.
Pseudoscorpion, "MK 9"
Prompt: Expected pirates, got dolphins; I'm okay with this. Sea/Naval Forces and Warfare were right there at the heart of your story. Heck, if I wanted to reach I could suggest your protagonist's conflict with himself and the outside world was warfare, on top of the more obvious interpretations.
A whole lot of scene breaks happened in this one. Too many. You did interesting things with the conceit, filling in the protagonist's history and personality with brief glimpses at his past, but it was out of hand and tedious to read by about the seventh break. I suggest melding sections six and eight, seven and nine. Six and eight are so temporally close that they are the same scene or drat near, which surely contributed to my losing patience with the format around then. I'd look at merging eleven and twelve in some way, too. You broke the pattern there, no longer alternating past with present, and it was disorienting.
Your verb tenses likewise shifted from past to present and back again with gay abandon, tempting me to withhold your fish ration until you learned better. "Less than a minute later, the water crests and he emerges, the distinct pink silhouette of the training dummy draped around his dorsal fin. Phweet! I blew my whistle"--do you see the trouble? The water crests, but the protagonist blew the whistle. Is this happening now or some time ago? Who the hell can tell? Another shift happened in "It's our job to recover them and get back quickly and safely." This one is debatable. You could make the argument that the present tense works in a past-tense story when it describes an ongoing situation, something that is still true when the story's over. But in this case it amounted to giving away the fact that the narrator was still working the same job after the story's events. It spoiled your ending a bit. You fumbled tenses in a different way in the section beginning "We were idling." 9-3 had already retrieved the first and second targets at that point, right? You said later "We'd been waiting [...] for about forty minutes now." Since those retrievals had happened in the past relative to the story, they should have been written in the past perfect. "First target had been pretty easy: free-floater, only twenty kilos. Had taken him ten minutes." Etc. "He was making good time" was fine as it was if the dolphin was currently making good time in the protagonist's eyes.
A few other minor mechanical missteps tripped me up. "It was oh-five-hundred, doing routine training exercises just off the coast." Bwuh. You've got a clipped, staccato rhythm going with the narration that the missing words suit, but that sentence tells me that whatever was oh-five-hundred was also doing exercises. My suggestion: either "Oh-five-hundred, doing routine training" etc. or "It was oh-five-hundred, and we were doing" etc. "One hundred" needs no hyphen. You use "practically screamed" in the first lines of section seven and section nine, and it's distractingly repetitive. (That's not a technical error. Just an annoying choice.) "However, my car lie"--eeeesh. I think you want "lay." You would never say he/she/it lie even in present tense, certainly not in past. Lay and lie trip up a metric ton of people; this link may help you avoid confusing them.
As soon as the protagonist--by the way, why didn't you give him a name sooner or a first name ever?--got tangled with the dummy, the sequence of events became predictable. Only whether the dolphin would survive could be a mystery at that point, and since upbeat is the tone of the week.... Surprising or no, it was pleasant to read. It wouldn't be a bad story if you cleaned off some of its barnacles. The last line feels weak, though; "I could get used to this job" isn't very enthusiastic. It let down the drama of the rescue and the awesomeness of that dolphin. Even bumping it up to "I could get to love this job yet" could be enough to give it the needed oomph.
"The first customer of the day was a very good customer, in that he appeared to be exceptionally wealthy, and know nothing about hovercars." CHAIRCHUCKER!!!!! A technical error in the first line. My world is shattered. You could fix it by deleting the comma after "wealthy" and then either putting "to" before "know"--so the sentence would convey that he appeared to know nothing about hovercars--or changing "know" to "knew," conveying that he appeared to be wealthy and also knew nothing about hovercars. I'd bet you intended the first one since the parallel prepositions are a more obscure rule.
Man, I forgot to talk about the prompt first, that's how much that line upset me. Prompt: I knew when I assigned you this class that I'd get a play on mechanics. "Celeste" makes me hang my head, but you put the mechanics in space, so it registers as a good/bad pun instead of the weakest prompt fulfillment since Hammer Bro.
Some of the Chairchucker zing is in this, but not enough! The story has a fair few funny bits (manufacturer-standard space weasels, "not a very good customer," Olaf), things that didn't make me laugh outright but got a smile (comic books in the safe, the ending), and some nice character moments with Celeste--I wish her girliness mattered in some way, though; she comes off like a TV "quirky girl" mechanic/scientist whose quirks are supposed to make her cute or something. These good pieces don't quite make a greater whole. The comic book joke doesn't fit all that well with the rest, for instance. Ditto the safe-opening routine. I feel like that sequence puts too much distance between the early talk about repulsor shields and the finale, that the pacing could maybe be tighter. There's also something unfinished about it. The final line is good, but the story seems to stop more than resolve. Maybe because the robber's still standing right there, alive if maimed, so the situation isn't over? I suspect that's it.
Oh, hey, I stumbled across another travesty. "'Olaf really knows his car parts, Ted' said Celeste." You apologize to that comma you didn't invite to the party right now, mister.
You could keep this one and smooth it out and see how it does in the wider world. It has a lot of charm for something thrown straight into the browser.
Amused Frog, "Tipping Point"
Prompt: Combining hydrology, geology, and meteorology was an ambitious move that I liked, but the implausible ending hurt you. Either your ambition outstripped your knowledge, you failed to convince me that what happened with the hygrometers made sense, or both. The seeming flaws in the conclusion also complicated the upbeat tone of your piece, although what you were going for was clear.
I can't buy that two full years of effort from Manya would show absolutely no result until one day she poured in just the right amount of water to register on every hygrometer. Every hygrometer, including one that had nothing to measure but the moisture in the air (I guess?). Was the idea that her watering trips had slowly filled a hitherto-empty aquifer? How did Corbin not know? Why didn't his dirt contain her water as it was supposed to do? If this is scientifically credible, then you needed to explain the whys and hows in such a way that it didn't read like you made stuff up for the sake of a happy twist. You focused on the setting and scenario at the expense of your characters; it would have been easier to go along with that twist if I'd cared more about Manya. She was a typical dedicated scientist, though, without an individual personality to hook my interest. You put all your eggs in the basket of the scientific problem, so its unbelievable solution killed the whole story.
The back story and infodumps after Manya sat down at her station dragged your pacing down. That section didn't last very long, but it felt long. The lengthy description of the base's exterior also slowed the pace, and I don't think it was worth it, although the details about the heat and the distance and the "grey, burnt hills" were good.
On a technical note, British quotation marks aren't wrong. As long as you use Brit punctuation rules consistently--which you did here, as far as I can tell--then shine on, you crazy diamond. Some of your other mechanical choices were erroneous, such as the failure to capitalize "because" in "Manya rolled off her bed, ‘because there will be one day." You should never start a sentence with a digit as you did in the one beginning with "90 of those were taken up with air purifiers"--spell the number out. In "100 metre excavation," "100-metre" was a compound modifier and needed a hyphen. You didn't always use the past perfect tense where you should have, such as in "The walk that took 45 minutes this morning" (took should have been had taken) and probably "plastering down hairs that escaped from her ponytail" (you should have written had escaped, unless the hairs were escaping as she plastered them). In the sentence containing "said Manya, and pulled up the figures," there should have been a "she" after "and" to make everything after the comma an independent clause. Etc.: small errors, but you made enough of them to give your writing an unpolished look.
Some of your lines were awkward too. "A knock on the door preceded Corbin" was a strange, roundabout way to say "Corbin knocked and then came in." The sentence "The sun was already searing hot, blindingly bright and made it feel like the whole landscape could burst into flame all over again" included a list composed of an adjective, an adjective, and a dependent clause; it's preferable for all the items in a list to be of the same type. The phrases "searing hot" and "blindingly bright" were redundant in that context. I suggest "The sun was already searing and blinding, and it made her feel like the whole landscape could burst into flame all over again," though you can probably think of an alternative you like better.
HopperUK, "St Martin's Summer"
Prompt: An English dictionary is more important here than I first thought, in a somewhat puzzling way. I looked up Robert Cawdrey and learned that he and his book were real, and Thomas is presumably his son. Robert's Table Alphabeticall was the first monolingual dictionary. I would guess that book and its time period inspired your whole piece. I take back half of what my short notes said about prompt failure: a dictionary played an integral role behind the scenes, even if its presence in the work wasn't a high point. It's still hard to call the story upbeat when it resolves so little and ends with Bess and her family still fleeing the new Lord Protector, Thomas and Bess parting, and all parties headed toward an uncertain future. Truth, with no resolution to the characters' circumstances it's hard to call this a story at all.
As such, you wouldn't have placed any higher if I'd been quicker on the draw about Mr. Cawdrey. You wrote well, and your two main characters were interesting people. I liked reading the piece. But it was and is a forgettable vignette. What happens here? Bess and her family leave home after Cromwell's death, because... well, we never find out. On the road, Bess meets Mr. Thomas Cawdrey and befriends him, and when Thomas leaves the caravan, he gives her a book. That's it. There's charm, but no meat. While I suspect Thomas dies shortly after the end, I have no idea what might happen to Bess or whether their friendship had a real impact on her life. The scenario is strongly reminiscent of the beginning of Rothfuss's Name of the Wind, but unlike Rothfuss, you didn't have the words to show how Thomas influenced Bess's future, and you didn't use the words you did have to tell me.
Prompt: The prompt was one thing this entry got absolutely right. Paleobotany was the warp of the story. Without ever going into Wikipedia territory, you kept plants integral and snagged my interest through your research.
Another thing it got right was the interaction between Fern and Holly. Theirs was the best scene of the bunch for a few reasons. One, the parallel to the first scene and the differences from it were lovely. Two mothers, two daughters; Fern treated her child's interest as she had wanted her mother to treat hers, and it was a sweet moment that possibly should have ended the story. The first three sections were about Fern, plants, family, and the way those things intersected, but family dropped out of the final two sections entirely. In Holly's case especially, it felt wrong that she ended up unimportant, unnecessary. I did like that Fern's ambitions and achievements were Fern's ambitions and achievements, that she accomplished things as a professional and a woman outside her family sphere, but--couldn't and shouldn't her child still have been relevant? Fern thought that she would never forget what it was like to try and succeed "again." I'm guessing her first success was Holly, but the text didn't give me so much as a peek at how Holly turned out to support that conclusion.
Something it got very wrong, in my opinion, was Daniel. That guy. What an rear end in a top hat! Why, oh, why would Fern have given this guy the time of day, much less have gotten pregnant by him, much less have married him? I know, I know, people have weird judgment in love, but the man was a cartoon villain. "That's enough reading. Watch some TV." Who was he, Matilda's dad? Who else says that? Why did Daniel ever get with Fern if he was so opposed to "egghead stuff"? You went over the top with him, and dialing him back to a level of douchebaggery one could imagine Fern putting up with at all, ever, could only have made his section better.
This could easily be a good story if the issues with Daniel and Holly were addressed, but those were damaging enough to keep it off the highest tier.
A technical note: your tenses were all over the place in the first section. Sometimes you used past, sometimes past perfect. Why past perfect? The other sections were all in simple past, and given the chronology jumps, there wasn't a set present before which the events of the first section would have occurred. But if you did want to use past perfect, you either should have used it consistently or used it in the first sentence to set up a flashback and then dropped to past. Switching back and forth the way you did made it look like you didn't know what you were doing, though I doubt that's the case.
Mons Hubris, "The Last Diver (1,380 words)"
Prompt: Mollusca and Molluscoidea were in clear evidence, but the prompt still defeated you in a way. You either knew a lot about pearl diving already or did a great deal of research. Wonderful! Apparently you wanted to show your work: various factoids about diving were poorly integrated into the story, sticking out like boils on the face of the narrative. Not wonderful at all! When you read up on a subject for something you're writing, it's tempting to try and pour all you've learned into the work, especially if it interests you. Figuring out which details you actually need and which to leave out isn't always easy. That was the challenging element of this otherwise simple prompt. Your entry read like an essay about how pearl diving has changed in the past eighty years or so; there was no plot to speak of, and the characters were thin.
Nearly all that happened in the piece was that an elderly woman watched her great-granddaughter dive for oysters and fail to find any. The point of view shifted to Hatsuo partway through, so we also got a description of the undersea world she saw. That paragraph was the best part of the story. For just a minute, you stopped telling us about fat as insulation or warming water or currents or how wide a diver's bucket was, and you showed actions taking place instead. Otherwise, the infodumps consumed even the dialogue. Look at these sentences: "Your grandmother and I could never convince your mother to learn this art. She wanted to go to University. It was for the best as you well know [...]." Those last four words were a giant red flag! Great-Grandmother was telling Hatsuo things she already knew, that Great-Grandmother knew she knew, and it didn't sound natural at all. Almost everything Great-Grandmother said was clumsy exposition. The story ended on another lecture about Hatsuo's mother and pearl diving and legacies, and I just wanted it to be over.
No, wait, I stand corrected: it ended on exposition about what pearl divers might eat for lunch. It's cool that you looked this stuff up. It's great, up to a point, to deliver nuggets of knowledge to your readers and maybe teach them something--but you have to do it with some restraint and grace. Research should serve the story, not the other way around, unless you don't mind boring anybody who isn't interested in your subject. I ended up bored despite my initial excitement about a pearl-farming tale.
Prompt: Nathan has an insignia, and the dog theme running through the piece is tied to that. The Dewey Decimal class may have inspired your decision to do a self-appointed-knight story. You fulfilled the prompt requirement even if I wish you'd taken a different road with your category.
Considering that a fake knight proving himself as a good and loyal servant to his king is an idea I've seen often enough that I knew immediately where this story would go, it's strange that I can't think of a specific word for such men. I called this a hedge-knight story in judge chat, but it wasn't the right term since Martin's hedge knights are still real knights. Anyway. You gave us a pleasant enough read aside from a couple of bobbles in word choice or phrasing. The main issue was that the whole thing was brutally predictable. Of course the real knights scorned Nathan. Of course he was more brave than any of them. Of course he saved the day. The only surprises were completely ridiculous: a blacksmith killing a dragon by throwing a sword into its eye as he leaps from a battlement is so anime that I want to banish you to ADTRW for a week to think about what you've done, and any reason the king would have had for denying Nathan a sword at the end escapes me. Those offbeat moments weren't enough to take the story away from its formula, nor were they--or anything else--interesting enough to make the stock plot and theme worth revisiting.
I mentioned bobbles: "who's to say" was in the wrong tense--or else you intended "who's" to mean "who was," but "who was" doesn't contract. "Who's" is always "who is" or "who has." I don't know what word you wanted in place of "welted," but I don't believe that adjective can be applied to a sword. I especially do not think "gravitas" means what you think it means. None of the missteps were important except the anti-gravitas thing, which, to be fair, was funny enough to remove seriousness as advertised.
Meeple, "Thought and Memory"
Prompt: You hit it, but the results don't impress. This is about mental processes only insofar as it's about anything at all.
Good sentence-level writing can't elevate a feather-light story in which nothing happens but the retrieval of a cat from a roof very far. You had an idea: an elderly witch stores her memory in her cat. It wasn't novel. I wish you'd chosen any other animal instead of going the most cliche, stereotypical route possible. I strongly suspect Hugh was inspired by Odin's ravens, Huginn and Muninn, given the title and his name, but Huginn was thought and Muninn was memory. Oops. A little more thought might have helped you there.
All of your 1,000+ words were spent on one concept and a side trip onto the roof, where Marie shuffled around for a while to not much end: she didn't even catch Hugh. There wasn't really a plot, and the conflict between Hugh and Marie was barely worth the name. You needed an actual story. It disappointed me that you didn't have one, because I liked the piece as long as I thought it would go somewhere. The prose was breezy, easy, and enjoyable. Alas, it turned out to be insubstantial too.
Sitting Here, "The Wire"
Prompt: Not an issue; the first half of the piece crackles with electricity. The second half, less so, but that isn't its problem.
I love the premise of an electrocution victim living on as energy inside the wires. That's fantastic. The lead-up to Brianna's death, the descriptions of her transition and electric life--good stuff. You could turn that idea into an amazing ghost story. Imagine if flipping a light switch had a chance of summoning the dead. Brianna's afterlife is horror fodder on its own: to travel the same wires forever and ever, locked within one grid, unable to be still... brrr.
But this isn't a ghost story or a horror story. It shifts tone sharply and abruptly when Dr. Sanchez brings Brianna out of her prison. Suddenly it becomes a buddy-buddy, transhumanist prelude to a story we don't get, because Sanchez's virtual world and quest to bring back the electrified deceased are the major ideas here. Alas! They aren't nearly as interesting. I dislike Sanchez altogether for putting Brianna through that experience and never once saying I'm sorry I traumatized you. She's smug and condescending instead, calling Brianna a "little zapper" as though she were a child and not a dead adult who has just been in Hell thanks to Sanchez's meddling. Then she rips on men for no reason whatsoever. I kind of want to punch this woman. The last three words might as well be To Be Continued for how much is resolved.
It's a drat shame, because there's a lot in Brianna and her predicament to like. The take on the prompt is unexpected and beautiful. Lengthen this considerably until it includes the results of Sanchez's efforts to cure death, or steer the early concepts down a different path, and you could have an excellent thing.
Gau, "Tomorrow in New York"
Prompt: It's the reason you received a dishonorable mention. Your story would have merit away from the constraints of Thunderdome and this specific round: your writing was good, your scenario and depiction of it compelling, although the protagonist's closing lines would have been heavy-handed regardless. But you failed the easiest part of a nonrestrictive prompt to the point where I couldn't find any sign that you had tried. You certainly hit Epicurean philosophy, but an Epicurean-philosophy story didn't need to involve the Epicurean dilemma. Ideas like "pleasure is the greatest good" and "to attain such pleasure is to live modestly and to gain knowledge of the workings of the world and the limits of one's desires" (thanks, Wiki) shouldn't have been hard to work into a narrative that wasn't depressing. You could have written an upbeat story about denying God if that was what you wanted to do, but one about denying God because the world was just that horrible was doomed from the start. Other people screwed up the upbeat requirement, but in all cases I could see the target they were aiming for; yours was a total mystery.
Anyway. As an entry, it was bad. As a story, it was all right, close to good. The second-person opening that shifted to first person was so-so for me. I almost wish you'd stuck with second person--a disaster scenario from that perspective would have been gripping if written well, and you're good enough to pull it off. The drop to first person was more disappointing than I would have expected. Alice felt slightly removed from what's going on around her, but in a way I mostly believed. The situation was so far from the norm that a layer of shock might have helped the brain to keep going. It was only at the end that she lost credibility as a person, not for what she said but for how she said it. "Scattered throughout the selfishness were people willing to do good in the face of fear." Really? She sounded like a pompous college prof discussing events a hundred years past. I'd probably like this as a story (but not as an entry) except for that specific line, because it was like she was taking this completely terrible disaster going on around her as an opportunity to declaim on the Nature of Man. A formerly sympathetic protagonist turning into an eleventh-hour rear end in a top hat was one more way in which this ending was a downer.
Dirtbag Diva, "Park"
Prompt: You tried. Maybe. The rose garden qualifies as landscape architecture, but its place in the story doesn't make a lot of sense. At least it has plenty of company: nothing else in the story makes that much sense either.
Roses are red, violets are blue; the prose is a mess, and the plotline is too. Nicole, an asset evaluation specialist at a bank, lucks into the task of telling a veteran's widow that she's about to lose her house. This is the straw that breaks the camel's back: Nicole quits. On her way home she sees a mural and rose garden she had never noticed before, and something about this place--goodness knows what--prompts her to ask the lone man on watch whether his bosses are hiring. They are! Convenient! A lot of pointless dialogue ensues! Nicole takes the job! The end!
Although the writing was poor throughout, the first half of the story had rhyme and reason to recommend it. The execrable textspeak, pointless details--nothing about Nicole's vacation or Rajeev was relevant--and infodumps made reading it a chore, but I understood Nicole's resignation under those circumstances. I can't say the same for the second half. You didn't set up Nicole's actions at all. In fact, you set her up as being in sound need of a vacation, with a trip already in the works. So I was mightily puzzled that she didn't take advantage of her new free time to enjoy the trip first; it seemed doubtful that her new employers would appreciate her taking off a short time after her start date--and that still might have been the least incredible thing about the scenario. Why oh why did Nicole want the job to begin with? How did she get hired so casually? What was the deal with the magical mystery garden? Not that I cared all that much, to be honest. The dull chatter with Rick drained my interest completely. Nevertheless, introducing a mystery at the very end of a story was an act of mild madness.
One of my co-judges pointed out the daisies in Nicole's office and suggested they were meant to imply an interest in flowers, which could have meant that gardening would be a labor of love for her. Maybe so. She didn't take those daisies home with her, though, which undershot that theory.
When I say "infodumps," what I mean is unwieldy nuggets of exposition strewn through a story like wordy mines through a field. They aren't particularly easy to digest. I would rather have seen the phone call between Nicole and Jesse than have gotten the run-down on Mrs. Logan's situation after the fact. You told me things you should probably have shown me. As for Rick's eleventh-hour infodump about the garden, I have no idea what that was even for--but now I'm repeating myself.
On to sentence-level writing. You made a whole lot of errors, from capitalizing "summer" in the middle of a sentence and typing the heinous phrase "her and Rajeev," to leaving out commas that would have aided with clarity and deciding to write a conversation in textspeak. That was just damned awful. If you had to do it--trust me, you didn't--then putting the messages in italics would have worked better. Quotation marks are usually for spoken dialogue. You didn't punctuate all those lines correctly, either. Yes, I'm serious: you put a period outside the quotation marks at one point. The grammatical foibles of the characters didn't excuse that.
Your comma usage had a lot of flaws, and in a couple of places you made it unclear who was talking by mixing the speech of one character with the actions of another. It was all rough. If you pay attention to punctuation, syntax, dialogue, etc. when you read fiction, you may be able to improve your sentence mechanics. Strunk and White's Elements of Style is also a decent guide.
I liked the sentence associating Nicole's blazer and coffee with phrases she had to say a lot in her line of work. There was a bit of subtlety there that stood out amidst all the blunt telling. Whether you still lurk the thread or not, I hope you still write.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 18:07 on Jun 28, 2015
|# ¿ Apr 13, 2015 07:23|
Expanded Crits for Week CVIII: PoshAlligator, bromplicated, Skwid, Grizzled Patriarch, docbeard, Fumblemouse, Tyrannosaurus, Blade_of_tyshalle, Schneider Heim, Ironic Twist, Fuschia tude, Phobia, crabrock, and JuniperCake
PoshAlligator, "Under the Museum"
Prompt: The take on genre art was great as long as I didn't think about it too long. How a solar flare froze people in physical stasis was a mystery to me, and I was very dubious that the premise held up, but it was a neat enough idea that I wanted to go along with your handwaving. A science-fictional Pompeii presented as artwork was as intriguing as it was cold blooded. The attempt at upbeat, such as it was, was less successful. Yours was yet another entry that read like part of a story. On top of that, your final beat was ominous.
Thank you for leaving the sentence fragments behind this week. No kidding: it made such a difference in your prose that it may have saved you from my DM vote, since this piece didn't work as a standalone story. Here's what I got: Sophia Mallado visited a museum after hours with the intention of viewing a special room kept from the public view. She almost certainly wasn't supposed to be there. A professor took her down into the Chamber of the Goddess, which contained the mortal remains of a hundred and fifty-plus people held--somehow--in stasis. A "solar flare disaster" and "Station IV" were involved, so it was the future. Sophia got Professor Percival out of the way by means of shenanigans. She found her great-great grandmother among the bodies and removed the "goddess stone" from her pocket. Which was missing from a throne somewhere, and that was important to whether an avatar of "the Goddess" would come back because...? The avatar seemed to stare at Sophie as she left. The end.
You were doing fine, more or less--my BS alarm jingled softly at that solar flare disaster--until all of a sudden there was a goddess and an avatar and a stone and WTF? When you described the scene, nothing was said about an avatar or a throne. Those concepts came out of nowhere. I have no idea what they had to do with the disaster or anything else. Sophia getting the stone sounded like the beginning of a story, not the end of one; the whole goddess thing being so poorly established, though, meant I had no investment in what she would do with that rock. Even as an introduction to a longer piece, it wasn't good. As a piece in its own right... nope. Nope, nope, nope. I'd guess that either this was set in a universe you'd worked with before or that you had to cut the ever-living bejayzus out of it to fit the word count--and you still could have trimmed three more words out, easy. If only you'd gotten rid of one wiggling cheek!
This was a huge improvement over your musical horror entry, but your ending did not make any more sense. Work on that, because non-endings and nonsensical endings kill stories dead as little else can.
bromplicated, "Faces in the Dark"
Prompt: To be fair, you would have had to work to screw up Library Operations, but you didn't. Yay! My only complaints about this as a library story mirror my complaints about it as a story, period.
This hit a lot of good notes for me. Why, it's almost as though it was designed to appeal to someone who loves libraries. Lucy's melancholy regarding the fate of physical books is one I've felt myself. I've never been in a library lit by candles--and to be honest, I don't believe candles for a minute as a library's backup power supply. It was a beautiful image, though. There was really no way I could have disliked this piece, and I enjoyed reading it very much despite its significant faults, especially since I hadn't run into a story that directly addressed the conflict between paper and tech before.
The emotional manipulation was clumsy and obvious, and Lucy behaved like a complete idiot for reasons that didn't even particularly serve the narrative. Mary told Lucy about her new tablet in precisely the worst way. It wasn't clear why Mary was even at the library beyond to deliver that little speech. I can't quite imagine a library staying open during a blackout if it had to use candles to do it; open fire + books = NO. And then there was Lucy's brilliant fuse solution that would have solved absolutely nothing. She couldn't have imagined people would stay in a candlelit library, reading, when the rest of the town had power unless she was insane. She talked as though cutting the power permanently might have been a viable idea. Nothing would have driven people out of the library faster, and I can't buy that an adult woman of sound mind would not have known that or would have believed her sabotage wouldn't have been found and mended within the day. (Was the fix supposed to be temporary? Did she only want another hour or two? That would make her considerably less irrational, but the way she talked to Gabriel, it sure sounded like she had powerlessness in mind as a long-term plan.)
On top of that, all the fuse weirdness led up to an anticlimax. "This won't change anything," Gabriel said, and Lucy gave up just like that. I wanted more weight or strength in Gabriel's response. Something less apathetic would have been good. This is how it is, don't bother trying to change it wasn't a sentiment that fit the story's tone.
Things concluded with Mary abandoning her new tablet far too quickly and easily. Did I love the sentiment? Sure. I just didn't believe it. Unless more than a couple of days had passed--this point was unclear--she shouldn't have fallen out of love with her toy so soon. Again I saw your hands at work, making sure the dominoes fell exactly so.
I couldn't possibly dislike a story centered on love of libraries and physical books, but I couldn't give top marks to something that defied reason to get its happy ending.
Skwid, "The Fantastic Collection"
Prompt: There's a private collection here, sure enough.
I can't begin to buy this premise, cute as parts of it are, and I say "premise" deliberately because that's all you have; there's no plot or character arc. You present the concept of a man who has spent his lifetime using charm and old-time patter to give visually trashy articles the luster of magic. This isn't a bad idea, but it does not work at all as executed here. The items are too poor. The patter is too cheesy. I'm supposed to believe that even the older kids are so taken in by James' smile that they decide a mystical device whose "inner workings remain a mystery"--how convenient--is as wondrous as advertised? Nope, nope, nope. You treat your readers the way James treats his audience: surely if you tell us James is wonderful and charismatic, we'll believe it to be true! It works in the story by authorial fiat; there's no such thing to make it work in real life.
If you think kids could happily spend "a few dozen minutes" staring at a dirty tooth and a whisk because of incredible stories, then I wish you were right. From where I'm standing, though, this optimistic view hurts the piece. The ending is so implausibly sweet that I needed a dental appointment after I read it, in part because neither James nor anyone who watches the show--not the kids, not the parents--is jaded or critical or unmoved. The lack of a viewpoint character was an interesting choice, probably the wrong one in this case. You could have tried to make me feel James' anxiety about his show by providing more than one glimpse of his thoughts. You could have made me see the show through the eyes of the boy who recorded everything. I suspect giving any depth to at least one character would have helped sell what was going on.
The writing is largely okay. When you shift away from describing the routine of James' shows in favor of describing one in particular, you bungle the verb tenses: "Now things are a little different though" etc. is in the present tense. Oops! I'm not sure all and sundry would agree with me, but I dislike the use of "today" as a time marker in past-tense stories, especially in past-tense stories that cover more than one day. The show didn't happen "today" if the story is being told after James' death. "Revolutionary War" should be capitalized. The comma after "jaw dropped" should be a colon. You need an apostrophe in "brother's phone," and the "He" that begins that sentence should be "The boy" to avoid confusion as to whether you mean the boy or James. An ellipsis that ends a sentence should have four dots: three for the ellipsis, one for the period. I could go on a bit longer. There are too many errors of too many different kinds, so even though each one is fairly minor, they add up to some clumsiness in the prose.
It may be unlikely at this point, but I hope you come back to fight again sometime. I agreed with my co-judges about the DM, but this is inoffensive as DM-worthy pieces go.
Grizzled Patriarch, "Love Like a Deep River"
Prompt: A flawless treatment, as befits a nearly flawless entry. The water garden is significant and meaningful even though the story is about so much more.
When something is this beautiful, this moving, this emotionally pitch-perfect, that it's a vignette simply doesn't matter. Months after the fact, I still consider it the best thing you've written for Thunderdome. Your premise is tragic; love beyond death bends it toward an ending with more light in it than even the best of the rest manage. Camilla's personality shines from a dozen little details. The humming as she tends her husband's remains. The bead of clay under her tongue. In her actions I see the outline of the story of her love for her husband--a love that will not end, wherever he goes.
If there is a fault, it may be that the narrator's love for Camilla is never mentioned as directly. I wish the enormity of his own feeling as well as hers had bubbled up in that pond. It's natural that the narrator should be somewhat detached, being dead. Still....
The prose is exquisite. It's polished. I won't swear there are no errors anywhere, but I've never noticed any. The sensory details are wonderful, with everything but taste represented. I'm especially fond of the kneading of clay and ash. While I'm heaping praise on your head, I'll note that you've pulled off a dialogue-free story without calling attention to that. Your perspective character can't act, only observe, but he remains important and interesting. This is work fit to impress the writer who sees what you've done and recognizes the challenges in it, and fit to please the reader who sees none of that and only cares that the whole thing is touching and full of love.
Don't get too big a head, mind you. I suspect this was something of a fluke at the time, and it may be still. It doesn't represent what you can regularly write yet--only what you can do at your best. That still says a lot.
Prompt: Mining, sculpture, archaeology, astronomy, and library science have at least as much of a role in the story as does computer programming. Honestly, the prompt is a little bit handwaved. "Just take my word for it," Kellen says. I'm not convinced programming and archiving have enough in common for her to know an alien stone library on sight--and I don't care! The ideas here are too fantastic. Anyway, you give enough of a nod to your class to pass muster.
The opening's a trace rough. I yelled about "those tree" already, but I'm going to yell again because seriously. The characterization starts to take off with Kellen's line about seeing amazing things. She and Jacinta are distinct people, credibly friendly, credibly opposed, with different goals and ambitions that avoid the cliche in each case. Kellen is obsessed with her project but canny enough to figure out right away that the Home Office may not let them survive. Although Jacinta's focus on the future temporarily(?) blinds her to the possibility that there's no real choice to be made, she gives up her dream in part for friendship. Only in part, and that's good. That she also has a practical reason for her action keeps the resolution on the right side of too sweet.
Maybe Jacinta should worry more that the Head Office would kill them, though; if she ever draws that conclusion, I can't see it, and "I can do better than working for people like that" feels like weak reasoning in comparison. Her decision works, but either I'm a huge cynic or that situation has "unfortunate accident" written all over it too clearly to miss.
I like Kellen, Jacinta, their friendship, and their story a lot, and I don't have much to criticize. It was Grizzled Patriarch's merit rather than a fault of yours that kept you from the win.
Fumblemouse, "Higher Education"
Prompt: A conversation between a college student and her professor about her grades is clearly connected to 378 Higher Education, and if a pervert prof isn't quite what I was hoping to get from that number, it's my own fault for forgetting that this is Thunderdome.
Joking aside, you did a fine job with your category, and the story found its stride after a stumbling start, breaking its chains of commas, discovering its rhythm, set free at last, and none too soon, by the humble period. You went a tad overboard early on! I count twelve commas in two sentences in the second paragraph. They gave the prose a sloshy rhythm that did fit Elizabeth's water theme, but even if that was an intentional choice, I'd rethink it; the results weren't pleasant. Some of your stories have a strange bent, and I have a mental file labeled "Fumblemouse's weird ones" that began with Mr. Toppham Hatt (remember that entry? Good times), into which this piece neatly slots. The eccentricity didn't work at first either. Most of the description of Alberhaven and his office said loudly, "Isn't this weeeeeird?" and elbowed me a few times to make sure I'd noticed.
But the weeeird for weeeird's sake faded as Alberhaven and Elizabeth started talking. Although there was a touch of as-you-know-Bob to Alberhaven's dialogue (I'm thinking of "first time here at the University of Ontological and Teleological Divinity" especially; you surely put that long name in to tell me, the reader, what kind of college I was reading about, but for a prof at that college to rattle it off felt false and awkward), the interplay hooked me. Especially the lines about champagne. The bizarre setting worked once it melded with the light humor and mundane human interest.
Alberhaven did come off as a horndog, though. Telling a young female student to put skin in the game, lecturing her on the importance of passion, calling her by a nickname? Then the story confirmed that he was a philanderer. He sure sounded pervy to me! I could have done with a little less perviness, the more so since if I remember right you didn't intend him to come off as hitting on Elizabeth at all. Goodness knows though that gods are infamous for that sort of thing. At least he didn't turn into a bull. Everything wrapped up neatly in a way that made me chuckle, and I enjoyed the story more than I'd initially expected to.
Prompt: The take on Latin poetry was cute in a vignette and could have made for a fun story in full.
If you're going to scratch something out in the eleventh hour to avoid a failure, this is the way to do it. No word count; no plot; poorly punctuated and suspiciously modern dialogue; a word missing here; the wrong word used there; and a choppy, staccato rhythm in the final paragraph: the rush is obvious, but the piece is still cute and still managed to do something unexpected and charming with its Dewey Decimal category. Thanks for turning in something entertaining enough to avoid wasting our time, despite your own lack of the stuff.
Blade_of_tyshalle, "Heart of Broken Glass"
Prompt: Malika didn't need to be a hologram, as a pocket-sized robot puppy would presumably have served the same purpose, but the category likely influenced your choice of a far-future cyberpunkish setting. It pleased me that you didn't go to the predictable holodeck well.
The severed leg in the third paragraph was a red flag that you might have trouble with the upbeat part of the prompt. As indeed you did. The mood was melancholy throughout; the highest it rose was bittersweet. But where Gau left the impression of having thumbed his nose at the prompt completely, you included glimmers of light, and I think your finale--Geraint giving the holodog to the girl he'd rescued--was intended to end the story on a hopeful note even if it didn't work that way for me. E/N would probably approve of Geraint giving up his last gift from Tabitha. I thought it was a sad and bleak thing to do, though how sad would depend on how much mind and heart Malika possessed. Still, the suggestion seemed to be that he could finally move on after achieving closure and saving somebody with one last bit of help from his lost love, and that was at least on the edge of the right emotional ballpark.
It's on the depressing side nevertheless, and if you didn't mean it to be then that may be something to think about if you revise the work later. (Assuming you haven't already at this late date.) A sentence or two that showed Malika happy with the change or accepting her new keeper would answer the question of whether Geraint hurt his holopet. That might be enough to nudge more sweet into the bitter.
The writing is decent on the sentence level but marred by clunky errors in such lines as "A man’s leg laid on the floor ahead" ("laid" should be "lay"), "A streak of blood lead away" ("lead" should be "led"; you also end the next sentence in "away" too, and the repetition isn't pleasant), "a razorwhip lopped off his arm at the elbow" (wrong tense: you should have written "had lopped"), "He muttered 'Malika, come'" (someday somebody in Thunderdome is going to improve at punctuating dialogue, and my ravaged soul will shed one joyous tear), "After a moment which felt hours-long" (what the heck is that hyphen doing there?), and probably others. Geraint reflects that the gouge in the ceiling looks like a razorwhip, but it doesn't, does it? It looks like a razorwhip mark or scar. Some of the burrs in the weave of the prose are more obvious than others; nothing is crippling, but you have room to get better at the mechanical stuff.
I actually like that this doesn't end with Tabitha and Geraint reunited and happy again. That would have been ridiculous given the tone you set with the severed body parts and all. This could be the basis for a good longer piece; the cyberpunk trappings were a shade bulky at flash length, though YMMV.
Schneider Heim, "Aphrodite and Hephaestus"
Prompt: The story wouldn't be remotely the same without Greek and Roman mythology. Your research is clear, and yet you tell me as much as I need to know about Aphrodite, Hephaestus, and Ares to understand the piece without hitting me upside the head with infodumps. It's a great job all around.
There are flaws in this, to be sure, and it probably strains belief a little too much that a director would let a completely untried teen actor go on stage in an improvised role when there's pride at stake. Some mention of Bernardo and Camilla practicing together before showtime could have helped, even a single sentence. For Bernardo to act as Hephaestus rather than Ares makes more sense in his head than it does in mine. There's an odd, not entirely pleasant tang to his choice. He pines after Camilla, but he casts himself--publicly--in the role of her character's cuckolded husband. What is he trying to say to himself or to her? It isn't very romantic that he and Camilla fit the roles of unhappy partners in an arranged marriage. I have the impression this wants to be a love story, but there's never any hint that Camilla feels anything but pity for Bernardo, and if Bernardo is imagining a future with her based on that--there's that unpleasant tang again.
I wonder if someone other than Bernardo could suggest the change in gods for the scene. Could Camilla do it, figuring he might be more comfortable as the smith god? You're no longer under a word count constraint, so maybe Bernardo and Camilla could talk a bit longer in the first scene and he could mention his affinity for Hephaestus.
The writing itself is competent with some minor scuffs. (E.g. "before University Week, where they would be performing"--when would be better than where when referring to a week; "it was the fluidity of tales that lent to infinite variations" doesn't compute and should perhaps be "it was the fluidity of the tales, that led to" etc.; "Camilla held not a page of the script in her hand" looks overblown and as though there had to be a simpler way to say that.) Here and there the phrasing is on the dramatic side, but I can buy that in the perspective of a teenage actor.
I like this a good bit despite the stuff I just said. Bernardo wants Camilla to have her debut for her sake, not his own, and that helps him come off like a decent sort. Camilla doesn't fall into his arms at the end, thank goodness. They make it through the play, and it's implied they do well, but the story ends on a hope rather than a promise. There's a bit of cheesiness, but only a bit, and it's actually more heartwarming this way than if you'd made the ending any happier.
Ironic Twist, "YX"
Prompt: The core of the story centers on an ancient and extinct bird, so that's a hit, and the final beat of your frame is meant to be upbeat. It doesn't work that way, but the end of the fable within the frame is hopeful too. Sort of. Scale smiles awfully soon after her friend gets ripped to shreds; she goes from despair to resolve to carry on in Arc's name so abruptly that the change feels forced and the mood doesn't ring true.
You went over the word limit for the sake of a frame that detracted from the whole. The first paragraph is great--but those two sentences are all the frame has going for it. The narrator isn't a character I care about; not enough is ever said about him/her for me to give a drat about his/her blog or tattoos. The opening half seemed okay on my first read because I thought I would get to know this person, but now that I know otherwise? No. It's a distracting waste of words and time. You meant it to be more, but you needed either a great many more words or a much shorter fable to pull that off.
The metaphor is unsubtle, even though Djeser and I had different ideas of what parallel you were trying to convey. Djeser's theory was that the narrator was gay and the fable represented his/her self-discovery, and mine was that the narrator had learned to figuratively "fly" from a dear friend, overcoming restraints that had hindered him/her. Neither was precisely right--but does it matter? Arc and Scale's story is the tale of the outcast who pursues her desires regardless of the cost. The gist got through even if your exact meaning was hazy; it would have been hard to miss.
I compared this in my short notes to a cross between "The Ugly Duckling" and Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and some of the similarity to those stories comes from their similarity in premise: an individual does not fit in with her peers and must find a group or forge a path that allows her to be true to herself. It's a familiar theme. You handled it fairly well, and with more words spent on Scale's decision at the end you'd have a worthwhile variation. On the other hand, it would still cover the same basic ground, and I don't think it stands out in the field.
That's where the expanded frame could do you good. For Thunderdome purposes you would have done better to cut the frame off and slim the core down to the 1,400-word limit, but outside of the contest you'd do better to make that frame interesting, important, and relevant and thereby distinguish the piece as more than a retelling of an old story.
Fuschia_tude, "Rare birds"
Prompt: Nope, and this was a symptom of your larger problems. This entry read like several ideas cobbled together inexpertly. You threw a manuscript--not a rare manuscript, but a manuscript nonetheless--into the piece and tried to make it significant, but as a catalyst for what happened with the birds, it made no sense. It didn't seem important to the story. The upbeat tone was missing too, as the ending was emotionally neutral: birds stopped disappearing, but the protagonist had to give up something she loved for an unclear reason.
My impression of events: a woman who kept many photographs of birds discovered that the birds were disappearing from her albums. Not the pictures themselves; only the birds. She sought help from three different professionals without success. Soon she discovered that even the birds on her novel covers had gone missing! She called a couple more professionals and finally had some luck with a... non-Euclidean detective. Well, okay. He determined that the pictures had been tampered with (no kidding!), but there was some sort of block on why, because...? His best theory was that the spirits of the since-deceased birds resented being photographed without permission--WTF--and their ghosts were stripping their images from her pictures and also from the covers of her novels, even though those birds had nothing to do with anything. Apparently the manuscript she'd been working on may also have had something to do with it. Don't ask me what. She had improperly collected birds and needed to atone. She did so by watching a living bird for a while. Apparently birds care whether people appreciate them properly! Or would rather be collected in cages. Who knows?
Your initial premise had nothing to do with rare books, but it was interesting. I was curious about the missing birds; I only got a little impatient as the protagonist consulted one unhelpful person after another. But then you tried to explain the phenomenon and everything fell to bits. There's no reason birds should care about any of this, but if I believed they did, I still wouldn't understand why the answer would be "blocked" to a non-Euclidean detective; I wouldn't and don't understand why painted birds would vanish too, and I have no idea what role the manuscript played. Plus, these birds' logic sucks. This lady clearly loves birds. She looks at her albums so often that she notices one individual bird disappearing per week. She went around the world to photograph them, and she's writing a book about it. What more do they want? Is the idea that she should live in and appreciate the moment instead of capturing it to dwell on later? That's my best guess, but that would make her new hobby of landscape photography anything but upbeat!
The pacing was off: I got the idea regarding the disappearing birds the first time, I promise, and I didn't need five separate consultations to remind me of it over and over and over. That part dragged, and then the finale felt rushed. Maybe you could have made sense out of everything if you'd spent more words and time on it. I kind of doubt it, but maybe.
This would probably have DMed if the judges hadn't thought it showed improvement. It had a cool concept and was quite readable--not perfect, but your mechanics are good--and that put it a step above the bottom rung. You should feel free to hang your head in shame over flubbing such a great Dewey Decimal category, however.
Phobia, "Lovestruck as a Window Washing Lifeguard"
That title's lightly intriguing on the first read, but on the second, when you know neither window washing nor lifeguarding matter at all, you have to wonder whether there was another story intended at one time or the writer was grasping at straws. Credit where it's due: that makes it a fitting title for the piece.
Prompt: You came incredibly close to getting a DM because you failed your class. Glass appears just once, when the protagonist first sees the woman as a reflection in a window. The glass is never important. This would be exactly the same story if he'd seen her directly instead. Ugh--and it's all the more irritating because windows and reflections could have been cool themes in a story about Fate, so you were on to something, but then you dropped it like a hot potato.
The story was nearly as incoherent as Dirtbag Diva's, too. My reading: A young man who believes himself unattractive notices an unusual woman in a window he's washing. She has a spattering of pale skin on her face and neck. He decides seeing her again is Fate because you're trying hard to shove that theme into the story. You even reiterate it: "I convinced myself it was Fate," "and thought 'this is Fate'." (Your mechanics suck. We'll get back to that.) He seems over-invested on the basis of one glimpse and one smile. These characters have no chemistry, so it's all weird. The protagonist claims he remembers the scars "but not just them," but you could have fooled me since that was what his perspective focused on earlier. The woman comes off like a space alien who is only visiting this planet for a short time. She doesn't know what a soccer ball is, God knows why. She tells the protagonist she has known their destiny all along, and she will come for him in four years. Four years pass. She comes. The end.
There are two reasons this didn't work out, I think--aside from flubbing the prompt and containing enough grammar errors to choke a copy-editing camel. One, both of your characters are as attractive and lively as damp squares of paper towel. Your main character doesn't do much at all. He doesn't want to. He wants to be led around by his idea of Fate. Fate doesn't do a lot either, and according to her, her actions are all predestined. I don't particularly want to know these people or care whether they get together. I can't sense any spark at all between the two; when the protagonist first sees Fate, you show him noticing her scar, but that's it. Even when she smiles, what he sees is how her scar moves. Why did that make him fall for her? He's supposed to be falling for her, right? Why else would he placidly wait four years for her? (Maybe he doesn't placidly wait! Maybe he has a life of his own! But by cutting straight to that day you give me the impression nothing significant happens to him in the interim.) You don't sell me on any sort of bond between them, though if you did, and if these characters had some charm, it could be a cute piece.
Two, I don't know why Fate is written as though she's an alien. Is she? An alien might not know what soccer is. But why an alien would come to Earth to hook up with a janitor, I don't know. The personification of Fate would have no reason not to know what soccer is, nor a reason I can fathom to refer to days as numbers and not dates. Nothing seems to be gained from confusing the issue. I'm guessing you were trying to make her mysterious and went overboard. Cutting those elements would have taken out a chunk of WTF.
Back to mechanics. There's no way on Earth that you proofed this entry. Probably you were out of time. The errors are everywhere, whether they be improperly capitalized words, descriptive phrases that don't parse ("polka-freckled"?), cartons of cigarettes small enough to fit in a pocket, missing punctuation, mangled tenses, typos, or anything else that broadcasts to the world THIS IS MY ROUGH DRAFT! Since I've a hunch you would find a lot of these errors yourself if you looked, I'm not going to point to them. Just... drat, Phobia. You can do better on all levels.
Djeser and Rhino didn't dislike it as much as I did, so there's probably a redeeming factor here. At least it's a story with a conclusion and a plot arc of sorts.
crabrock, "The Glass House"
Prompt: A story about glass after all! You hit your own prompt, too. I'm not on board with the conceit that an etched piece of glass looks so dramatically different from the "wrong" side, although this is close enough to a fairy tale that magic may account for it; either way, the fact that RJ's drawings are cut into glass is critical to the revelation around which the story spins.
I don't love the opening. The line "Like he was fighting nature itself to avoid coming out into a world he wouldn’t understand and wouldn’t understand him" slaps me across the face with the story's theme, and "and wouldn't understand him" strains the metaphor. The line in which his parents refusing to put his crayons up on the refrigerator signals that the prose will be ragged again, as indeed it is. Most of the goofs appear to be misspellings or typos: "one" for "on," "class" for "glass," "airie" for "aerie"--spell check should have howled about that one. Something else I don't love is that RJ's family is full of dicks, although the extent of their dickery won't be apparent until later. I'm not sure who with whom RJ plays hide and seek. Nobody? That would be drat sad given that's the only time he doesn't feel lost in the world.
His father's jerkwad ways are crippling to the story's would-be upbeat ending: James, Sr. shows nothing but shame in his son until RJ turns out to have talent, and worse--far worse--only then does James break the glass to rescue his kid. My God, this man's an rear end. The resolution is less sweet for it. Suddenly appreciating his young Da Vinci doesn't make James less of a dick, and RJ deserves a father who wouldn't wait to save him from a witch until he draws something pretty. I think there's a tone misstep or something going on here, like maybe you were going for a Roald Dahl-ish voice in which it would be natural and funny that parents are terrible. But what James comes to appreciate in his son isn't a good heart or even a clever mind, it's drawing talent, and drawing ability isn't connected to what kind of person RJ is. That's my best guess for why the Dahl tone doesn't carry the ending. There's a moral there about seeing something from another angle/looking below (or behind) the surface/not judging what you don't understand, and it's appropriately upbeat, but I can't get past wanting to whap James on the back of the head long enough to feel very warm and fuzzy.
RJ's name is a neat early clue that I only saw after I'd read the whole thing. I don't get how it works in-setting, though. I missed it if RJ reversed any other names or spoken words. Does he hear "RJ Mij" when other people say "Jim, Jr"--wouldn't he hear "Mij" more often than "RJ" if so? Confusing.
The descriptions of RJ's drawings are great and make me wonder about the viability of etched greenhouses. Also good: the lady screaming at smiley faces on sheep. I'd scream too. That's creepy. I like RJ himself, which may be why I got so hung up on how his family treated him.
JuniperCake, "Standing Vigil"
Prompt: Good. The story is certainly upbeat, and it's cool that you took Time down an SF route that wasn't time travel.
I figured out the robotic nature of the protagonist in the seventh paragraph, but I probably should have clued in sooner. The trick of dropping breadcrumbs paragraph by paragraph that led to that conclusion without stating it, ever, was a good one, much more intriguing than if you'd started out by pointing to the protag's mechanical status. Hooking and keeping the reader's interest was something this story generally did well. There was a lot you never said, like why the soldiers left and what began--and ended--the war; even the setting was unclear. It worked anyway, partially because we didn't need to know, partially because the lack of information was true to the robot's limited viewpoint and concerns.
I wondered some at how the trees reclaimed the land so thoroughly. Lines like "Soon it had friends too" didn't tell me whether the robot successfully planted other saplings (probably) or the tree somehow produced offspring; I'm unsure how much time was supposed to have passed at that point. You mentioned the green expanse growing before you mentioned centuries passing. I'm not sure this was a bad move, but I'd have liked it to be clearer that the revitalization of even a little bit of blasted land took a long darned time. That was my only nitpick with the piece--well, that and "I did not know of it's true capabilities." Augh!
Come to think of it, there were a few places the phrasing was awkward. Even though they didn't spoil the story, smoothing them out wouldn't hurt. "It was not allowed for us to be friends like the soldiers were of each other" is an example. With each other would be a better preposition there, and you could perhaps cut several words: "It was not allowed for us to be friends as the soldiers were." You also put commas after "Yet" that didn't need to be there: "Yet, nothing arose from the ground." Nope. Would you put a comma after "for" or "but" if it started a sentence?
It's nice to have only minor errors to criticize. Someday I want to believe you'll submit your entries more often than not and on time. You're a solid writer and don't need to contend so fiercely for sebmojo's cherished failure crown.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 18:44 on Dec 9, 2015
|# ¿ Apr 13, 2015 08:12|
|# ¿ Apr 18, 2015 01:30|
One Thousand Wrapping-Paper Cranes
After my sister opened her birthday gift and waxed rhapsodic over the perfume I'd given her, the wrapping paper lay on the floor by her knee, a colorful shell momentarily forgotten. My fingers dented its contours as I picked it up. One good crumple would have ruined it, but Cherry stopped me with her tsk of protest. She plucked the paper out of my hand and smoothed out the damage.
Garlands of origami cranes hung on the walls of her cramped living room; above our heads, they swayed in the breeze of the fan, hundreds of birds with violets and party hats and Santa Claus on their triangular wings.
"Don't you have enough?" I asked.
Cherry laughed. "You can't have enough luck." She snagged scissors from the mess of junk on the coffee table and snipped out a flat paper square. I'd chosen a dull, solid red, but it seemed that didn't matter.
I said, "Luck hasn't gotten you a better job yet. Or Gabe a real one." I pulled on the damp collar of my blouse. No fan could beat back the Georgia summer. "Will the cranes bring you a house with air conditioning?" Or a man who isn't a burden on you?
My sister dropped the scissors into her lap. "You're a guest in our home," she said quietly, as though she'd heard the question I hadn't spoken aloud--this time.
I looked away. "You're right. I'm sorry."
Sometimes I imagined a leak in the roof, a flood, or a fire ruining all her talismans, but I couldn't believe their loss would stop her from counting too much on fortune.
Cherry's smile returned in full when Gabe came home, hours later, reeking of fry grease and holding a sack of burgers. The fold-out card table in the kitchen barely held three plates, much less the birthday cake. I held it and sang with Gabe, without looking at him, while Cherry blew out her candles.
In the guest room I took a sleeping pill and lay down on clean sheets. Cherry's cockatiels chirped at each other in their cage near the high, small window. On the edge of sleep, the rustling of their wings sounded like paper on paper.
Once, in high school, my sister and I went to a party. I'd studied two weeks for a math exam, scored a 94, and floated in a cloud of delight. Cherry had gotten a B in chemistry and wore her relief like a warm coat. Her lucky bracelet glittered on her wrist.
There was a girl--I've forgotten her name. She swept by when Cherry and I were grabbing punch. Cherry scowled; she took the punch cup out of my hand and gulped half of it down.
"I wish she'd trip," she said. "I wish she'd break her nose and get blood all over her shirt."
"What did she do?"
"She told Matt I slept with Paul. And Joshua... and Ryan. At the same time."
"He believed her?"
"No, but I was mad he asked and--it was a stupid fight, but--"
Given that the girl had found Matt in the crowd and they were talking and laughing, I could piece together the rest. I poured a second cup of punch. "I'll be right back."
I crossed the room to where the girl and Matt stood and threw the drink over the front of her blouse. "You're a bitch," I told her. To Matt, I said, "You're an idiot."
Cherry, giggling, sat with me on the curb after they threw me out of the house. "You really did that, Van!"
"I don't count on luck when something matters--I go for it." I nudged her side with my elbow. "You should, too."
Later I'd learn that the fire had started in the walls. A circuit breaker had failed. At the time I only knew a large hand was on my shoulder, shaking me awake. "Vanessa, come on--" I gasped in air and choked on the stench of smoke while the cockatiels shrieked. Gabe hauled me up and bent to pick up my purse, then shoved the strap into my hand. "Gotta get out of here!"
"She's okay, she's already out! Now you!"
Gabe pushed me toward the door. I ran, stumbling. Through the living room: the cranes burned, Santa and his reindeer crumbling to ash and ember, and their disintegrating bodies were bright beyond my imaginings. Gabe grabbed my arm to keep me steady, then let me go--the night outside of the house was beautifully dark.
My sister stood in the street with strangers around her. Sirens shrilled, still far away. Cherry seized my hands when I reached her, but her eyes were on someone else. "Gabe!"
I turned around. He was still in the house, moving away from us. "The birds!" he yelled, and then he was out of sight.
One of the strangers, the neighbors, said, "The trucks are coming, hon. They'll be here in a minute."
I squeezed Cherry's fingers. "He'll be all right. He'll be fine."
She threw me a wild, incredulous look. Something inside the house collapsed with a crash; fire bloomed through a shattered window. Cherry tore herself free of my grip and pelted toward the flames and her man, ignoring my scream. Another neighbor caught my arm to keep me from following.
I didn't breathe while I couldn't see them.
But Gabe and Cherry came back out again, his arms full of bird cage, her hand around his wrist. The light of the approaching fire engine turned their pale faces red.
I shook off the neighbor's hold and ran to meet them. Gabe set the birds down, still alive, still squawking, to wrap Cherry and me in a hug that smelled of fry grease, soot, and sweat. We all held each other so tightly it hurt. "It's okay," Gabe said. "We're all okay."
I was. They were. And I blessed my sister's luck as her cranes flew on smoke wings.
|# ¿ Apr 20, 2015 02:48|
|# ¿ Apr 20, 2015 21:01|
Wizardry: You pull your magic from tomes, scrolls, poems, and all other expressions of the written word, but your own story will never be writ in ink.
Read it in the archive.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 09:40 on Jan 3, 2016
|# ¿ Apr 27, 2015 04:51|
For those deciding which stories to critique, this page may be useful: it shows which stories have already gotten feedback. I don't promise up-to-the-minute accuracy, but I'll be updating it as I see new crits.
Judges using judgemode may wish to avoid that link!
|# ¿ Apr 27, 2015 19:20|
Interprompt Crits for dmboogie, Auraboks, and Chairchucker
dmboogie, "The Fast and the Bearded"
This was somewhat fun to read, and I liked your main character and your descriptions of magic, but why did the Boss run illegal car races again? Who was Morgan? Did those Traditionalists come out of nowhere with an objection that made no sense, or was it just me? Naming your protagonist Merle may have been a mistake: it made me think of Merlin, which made me think of Excalibur, which made me wonder whether your setting never had magical swords, grails, etc.
A lot of things felt pulled out of your hat for the sake of keeping the story moving. The logic to support them wasn't there. If I were you, I'd cut Morgan and the race altogether and give Merle a different reason for driving at crazy speeds at night. Some important and possibly illicit errand for Boss, maybe? Boss could have enemies--the Traditionalists going after him is flimsy as it stands. Your wizard-mechanic ending a drag race in a spectacular, self-sacrificing crash but surviving to rev cars another day is all good, but the specifics need some tweaking.
Auraboks, "Open and honest discourse"
On the one hand, you incorporated every part of your prompt. On the other, I didn't understand why your protagonist's power couldn't overwhelm this one woman's mind until I checked out the wizard description you'd been given. Her persistence was weird to me--though maybe it shouldn't have been, given reporters--and why did he keep letting her in? Shouldn't she have used other tactics than a direct interview to get the facts about him? The situation was too contrived, enough so that it nagged at me. If the protagonist's manipulations on such a public figure as the President were transparent enough for someone who didn't believe in magic to notice, it's strange too that the Wizard Police didn't figure out what was going on sooner. It would have helped the ending if you'd set up the Wizard Police beforehand.
I enjoyed your opening section, your prose (except for "no matter how well you pay the wizard"--to go with the hypothetical "would," the verb should have been "paid"), your angle, and your jerk of a main character. I don't think you pulled off the conflict or climax, quite. It's as though you made story stew by combining several quality ingredients with one or two that left an oily aftertaste.
Chairchucker, "That Was a Pretty Wizard, Wasn’t It?"
That was written in the last fifteen minutes, wasn't it? You don't say. Your casual humor was on overdrive, and I suspect and you surely suspect and I suspect we all suspect there's no reasonable hope of victory, and yet this tale of wizardry as told by a fun-loving eight-year-old (or a Thunderdomer with the soul of one) still made me grin a time or two. I think it was the log looking so fly. Having the log "talk" worked in this context; making your carpenter-wizard a woodpecker was clever; overusing "dumb" so much was as dumb as a dumb thing, that's how dumb it was. It's my only real beef with the piece. Well, that and Wendy being a woodpecker with a random power more than a wizard. You could at least have described her as a pileated so she'd have had a pointy crest.
As a serious attempt to win, of course, this would be a tad ridiculous, but it's a fun dance for you to have bust out at the wizard party.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 19:00 on Apr 28, 2015
|# ¿ Apr 28, 2015 06:17|
Has everyone received a crit now? Kind of hard to keep track with so many submissions.
Everyone has! The first twenty or so stories have been especially blessed.
|# ¿ Apr 28, 2015 18:25|
I'm in, and I'm calling my shot:
Otherworldy golden incense, blooming wind-flowers, everlasting lavender, bluebell, a faint whiff of exotic sugared candies, and fae mist upon wet green grass.
A luminous, viscid blend of white amber, lemongrass, white oakmoss, and davana.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 19:50 on Apr 29, 2015
|# ¿ Apr 29, 2015 19:47|
Read it in the archive.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 09:49 on Jan 3, 2016
|# ¿ May 4, 2015 06:10|
Thunderdome Week CXLIV: Doming Lasha Tumbai
Judges: Kaishai, Entenzahn, and Erogenous Beef.
It's taken me two years, Thunderdome, but I'm finally back on the throne during the lead-up to the Eurovision Song Contest. The original Eurovision Week occurred after Erogenous Beef introduced me to this glorious celebration of ambiguously gay twins dancing in giant ruby pauldrons; now--at last!--it's time for Round Two.
Your task is to choose a Eurovision entry video from this year's crop. Your story must somehow relate to that video and/or song! Setting, theme, tone, characters, costume, whatever: you have to incorporate something, and the less we have to stretch to see a connection, the better off you'll be. Name your pick when you sign up. Only one writer may work with any song, so it's first come, first serve.
You have the option of letting the judges choose a song for you instead--but take heed: my Eurovision tastes run less toward ballads, more toward falsetto dubstep Dracula and Ukrainian crossdressers with stars on their heads. Judge selections may come from any point in Eurovision history, so this is your one and only way to have a shot at the likes of "So Lucky." Such opportunities have a price, however. We will not hand out song assignments any earlier than Thursday.
Lest you forget, some restrictions apply: No fanfiction, no nonfiction, no erotica, no poetry, and no GoogleDocs.
Got it? Good! Go forth and sing!
Sign-up deadline: Friday, May 8, 11:59pm USA Eastern
Submission deadline: Sunday, May 10, 11:59pm USA Eastern
Maximum word count: 1,400
Blue Wher (Montenegro): "Mother's Violin"
Broenheim (Moldova 2013; Flash rule: Embody the Moldovan spirit with pointy hats and over-the-top masculinity): "A Million Things I Wish I Had Done"
Wangless Wonder (Russia 2012)
Ironic Twist (Italy; Flash rule: Nothing stereotypically Italian may appear in the story): "Sunstroke" (Submitted past the deadline)
bigperm (Slovenia 2014; Flash rule: A cheap, broken, and/or malfunctioning kitchen appliance must be featured): "Danes Odhajam"
SadisTech (Ireland 2011)
spectres of autism (Macedonia): "Dragon"
Jonked (United Kingdom): "Love You While I'm Gone"
skwidmonster (Azerbaijan): "Mr. War Criminal"
newtestleper (Latvia; Flash rule: Drawing from this song, inject the story with patriotism and drunkenness.)
Claven666 (Switzerland 2014): "No More Hunting Stars"
Grizzled Patriarch (France): "Tiny Edible Things"
crabrock (Ukraine 2007 and Denmark 2013): "A Probabilistic Route to Happiness"
Killer-of-Lawyers (Latvia 2010): "The Star and The Skull"
JcDent (Sweden): "Shame of Shamus"
TheGreekOwl (Greece): "One Last Breath"
PoshAlligator (Slovakia 2010): "The Black Mountain's Bell"
Benny Profane (Norway): "The Saunier Mausoleum"
Tyrannosaurus (Austria 2003): "It’s Not Always A Serpent That Makes You Sin"
Schneider Heim (Georgia): "The Final Siege of the Black Steel Castle!"
hubris.height (France 2008): "Saccharine and Gasoline"
Sitting Here (Belarus): "Full Circle"
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 08:19 on May 12, 2015
|# ¿ May 5, 2015 03:19|
Attention, fighters of last week! If you would, please tell me which BPAL scent you chose via PM or IRC so that it can be noted in the Archive.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 07:18 on May 5, 2015
|# ¿ May 5, 2015 04:27|
They're open until Friday! Random song assignments will be given out starting on Thursday. 'Til then, kick back and enjoy some Eurovision classics.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 06:56 on May 6, 2015
|# ¿ May 6, 2015 00:17|
It's been Thursday forever. Where are my songs
Is this the point at which I cordially invite you to borrow a few dicks from my co-judge's hoard and eat them?
Nah, it's the point at which you indecisive souls learn your fates. Behold!
Broenheim will represent Moldova 2013 with Aliona Moon - "O Mie."
Wangless Wonder will represent Russia 2012 with Buranovskiye Babushki - "Party for Everybody."
bigperm will represent Slovenia 2014 with Tinkara Kovač - "Round and Round."
SadisTech will represent Ireland 2011 with Jedward - "Lipstick."
Claven666 will represent Switzerland 2014 with Sebalter - "Hunter of Stars."
crabrock will represent Ukraine 2007 with Verka Serduchka - "Dancing Lasha Tumbai" and Denmark 2013 with Emmelie De Forest - "Only Teardrops."
Killer-of-Lawyers will represent Latvia 2010 with Aisha - "What For?"
PoshAlligator will represent Slovakia 2010 with Kristina - "Horehronie."
Tyrannosaurus will represent Austria 2003 with Alf Poier - "Weil der Mensch zählt." Entenzahn sends his regards!
Newcomer hubris.height will represent France 2008 with Sébastien Tellier - "Divine."
Good luck! Don't forget the offers of flash rules on the table should you somehow have trouble spinning gold into more gold.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 19:40 on May 7, 2015
|# ¿ May 7, 2015 19:07|
Just over four hours remain to sign up! If you're vacillating, consider that the glories of Belarus or Spain could still be yours.
|# ¿ May 8, 2015 23:54|
|# ¿ Oct 28, 2021 04:13|
Sign-ups for Week CXLIV are now CLOSED! Those of you who aren't performing, join us in the audience: it ought to be a heck of a show.
|# ¿ May 9, 2015 04:20|